After the fifth concussion of his nine-year career, offensive tackle Steve Wallace said he is prepared to walk away from the game the next time the lights go out in Georgia _ or wherever the 49ers happen to be playing.
"I'd rather live longer and play shorter as opposed to playing longer and living shorter," he said.
Wallace, a Pro Bowl left tackle, was kneed in the back of the head by Atlanta's Lester Archambeau in the first quarter of San Francisco's 42-3 victory Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The blow blurred Wallace's vision until the fourth quarter of a game he barely remembers.
"It's scary any time you lose your vision," he said. "You're trying to gather your thoughts. You know you want to get back into the game. You're trying to focus, but you can't even think about the play. It's a scary thing."
On the flight home from Atlanta, Wallace became concerned when he read about how repeated concussions, two of them this season, forced Bears fullback Merril Hoge to retire after eight years. Multiple concussions ended the career of Jets wide receiver Al Toon in 1992 after eight seasons.
"That was the first thing I was concerned about," Wallace said. "I realized I have to take things more seriously. We had a CAT scan, and everything came out positive _ or negative, I should say. They said I was fine. Brain was operating normally.
"It's just like a boxer getting knocked out. Any time you have a few of them, you need to take a serious look at yourself."
Said coach George Seifert: "The thing that heightens that sense is because Hoge just retired. Everybody's going to be more conscious of that right now. We'll do the right thing for Steve."
And Wallace wants to do the right thing for his wife, Vassar, and their daughters, Elle and Xaia, both adopted two years ago.
"I want to be able to enjoy the kids," he said. "You don't want something to happen when you get to age 50. You don't want to be punch-drunk or anything like that."
If a doctor advised him to retire, Wallace said, "I'd have no problems. The 49ers have taken care of me. I feel fortunate and lucky. Over the last three, four years I've had to take every year like it was my last one."
Around the league
Bengals: General manager Mike Brown said he hopes to persuade defensive end Alfred Williams, a free agent after this season, to remain in Cincinnati. "He's an important piece of our defense," Brown said. "He showed that on Sunday." Outweighed by 30 pounds, Williams beat left tackle John Jackson for three sacks in Pittsburgh's 14-10 victory.
Raiders: Wide receiver and kick returner Rocket Ismail, who suffered a concussion in the loss at Miami, practiced and is expected to play against Atlanta.
Redskins: Coach Norv Turner said third-stringer Gus Frerotte could supply a boost when he starts at quarterback in place of injured Heath Shuler against Indianapolis. "I think it can provide a little bit of excitement," Turner said. John Friesz, the starter when Washington beat New Orleans for its only victory, also is available.