While the 49ers have not yet conceded the injury will now force the club to seek a veteran quarterback, sources said that will be the case, and San Francisco officials will begin to compile a list of possibilities.
Team officials announced the planned surgery on Saturday evening and, while attempting to retain an optimistic outlook, reiterated the serious nature of the injury. The surgery will be performed by longtime 49ers team orthopedist Dr. Michael Dillingham.
The injury occurred as Rattay rolled to his right to throw a pass in the first day of the team's three-day practice camp.
Head coach Dennis Erickson acknowledged that Rattay, scheduled to assume the starting job following the offseason release of Jeff Garcia for salary cap considerations, faces a rehabilitation that could take three to four months. The decision to opt for the surgery, rather than hope the tear might heal on its own, came after discussion among San Francisco officials and medical experts as well as Rattay and his representatives.
Erickson said the injury is not considered season-ending and noted that Rattay "probably" will be ready for the regular-season opener. "He is going to be our guy," Erickson said.
But even by the most optimistic estimates, that will be a difficult timetable for Rattay to work through. The likelihood is that he will not begin practicing until mid-August at the earliest, and will miss the first month of camp.
San Francisco has three other quarterbacks -- second-year veteran Ken Dorsey, third-year pro Brandon Doman and rookie Cody Pickett -- on the roster. None has ever thrown even a single pass in a regular-season game. Dorsey, a former University of Miami star and a seventh-round pick in the 2003 draft, has assumed the No. 1 spot on the depth chart, at least for now.
Rattay, a record-setting quarterback at Louisiana Tech, is a three-year veteran who started three games in 2003, posting a 2-1 record.
The 49ers likely won't begin serious discussions about adding a veteran until next week, but their search will be compounded by salary cap problems. According to league salary documents, San Francisco has just $1.325 million in available cap room.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.