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Quarterbacks Battle for Top Spot Around NFL

Several NFL teams are in the midst of a time-honored preseason ritual in which coaches absolve themselves of the responsibility of choosing their starting quarterback.

"Right," San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith said recently. "'It's up to the players, not me, to make the decision.' That's what they say, so you do what you do and hope it's good enough."

Smith's tussle with Shawn Hill for the 49ers job is one of several quarterback duels of interest this preseason.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris says he hopes to choose this week between Byron Leftwich and Luke McCown, who's less experienced but more mobile than Leftwich.

Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn are in a hot contest for the Cleveland Browns' top spot.

No. 1 draft pick Matthew Stafford has struggled early for the Detroit Lions as veteran Daunte Culpepper lurks.

New York Jets rookie Matt Sanchez gets a chance today vs. the Baltimore Ravens to secure the job over Kellen Clemens. Coach Rex Ryan wants to make his pick this week.

"I don't want to put too much pressure on myself," Sanchez said. "Coach Ryan will make his decision when he needs to. Until that point I'll show them my best every time I get an opportunity."

Meanwhile, injury-plagued Smith is doing all he can to live up to the potential the 49ers perceived he had when they made him the top pick in the 2005 draft. Hill, though, is 7-3 as a starter over the last two seasons and has a fan in coach Mike Singletary.

Singletary wants to make a choice soon. But when? "I have to look at more film," he said. "It takes me a little longer than some other people."

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