Difficult to imagine Smith elsewhere next year

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Difficult to imagine Smith elsewhere next year

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith might not have a contract with the 49ers for the 2012 season, but it appears once again he has something seemingly as binding.It's unsigned. It's probably even been unspoken. But at this stage in the season, it seems unfathomable that Smith will be anywhere else in 2012 because of the mutual trust and loyalty that both sides have exhibited.
Remember, Smith was unsigned during the lockout when coach Jim Harbaugh handed him the playbook. Smith studied it for a month. Then, he organized two weeks of get-togethers to teach the system to the 49ers' offensive players.RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
Harbaugh trusted Smith to do his work. And Smith trusted Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke that a return to the 49ers -- against what Smith had planned in the aftermath of the 2010 season -- would not backfire. And both sides have been rewarded.Smith has started every game and taken every significant snap as the 49ers have clinched the NFC West with a 10-2 record. His passer rating is a career-best 94.9.Let's remember, Smith, a seven-year NFL veteran, is only 27 years old.And while the 49ers rank 29th in the NFL in passing yards per game, Smith's confidence and comfort are growing. Theoretically, he should continue to get better.RELATED: NFL Stats leaders
After all, Harbaugh said any quarterback will continue to get better the longer he is within the system."When you're in a system for six months, you know it better than you did the first month," Harbaugh said. "And when you're in it 12 months, you know it better than you did at six months, particularly this system. I've seen evidence of that."And I think by two years in it, you're an expert and they're able to coach guys on it because they know it so well."Where Smith had a head start is that he learned the system well enough in May during the lockout to teach it to the 49ers' offensive players in June."I felt the same thing back then, what a fabulous thing that was -- not only for Alex but for our team," Harbaugh said. "Those motivated players were getting together in the summer and holding workouts, and team workouts and really player-led practices. I pretty much knew back then that that was a very good sign."The 49ers will want Smith back. And Smith will want to return. And it seems implausible that another organization will try to lure him away by out-bidding the 49ers.Any team in need of a quarterback will be well-versed in Smith's history as a player who has not been provided any stability in his career.The 49ers will not have make Smith among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL. Early speculation around the league is that the 49ers could re-sign Smith to a two- or three-year contract for 8 million to 11 million annually. It's possible that Harbaugh and his staff had no idea that Smith would be as efficient this season as he has turned out. But working with him every day, there is a belief that Smith can get better and the passing game can continue to improve.The 49ers will expect the quarterback position, as a whole, to be better next season. There's no doubt about that.
And that can be accomplished without making a change to their depth chart. After all, Smith and rookies Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien were good enough to comprise the 49ers' depth chart in 2011.And each of those players should be improved next season.

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

Bowman guarantees he will not be odd-man out of 49ers' competition

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ biggest free-agent acquisition on defense and one of the team’s first-round draft picks play the same position.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said he is holding off on thinking about how everything is going to play out this season at the linebacker position.

“I really try not to envision it too hard because I see a lot of good players there,” Shanahan said Tuesday during the 49ers’ first week of organized team activities.

The 49ers awarded weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith guaranteed money as an unrestricted free agent totaling approximately $12 million. Then, on the first day of the draft, the 49ers’ No. 3 rated prospect experienced a free fall, and the club traded into the back end of the first round to select him.

While Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined through the offseason program as he recovers from shoulder injury, he figures to compete with Smith for the starting job. Foster will also learn middle linebacker, where NaVorro Bowman has earned first-team All-Pro honors in four seasons.

Bowman looks to be nearly all the way back from a torn Achilles that limited him to just four games last season.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen,” Shanahan said. “Seeing Bow out here and how healthy he’s been, knowing we’ve added some good free agents, and the way the draft worked out, having a linebacker we had ranked very highly fall to us at the end of the first round. We got a lot better pretty fast.

“When you ask me how it’s going to play out, I’m not sure. It’s a good problem to have. It’s something you’d like to have any every position. There’s going to be a very good player who’s not out there all the time. That’s not a bad thing. That makes the two guys who are out there go a lot harder and play better. It makes special teams better and it allowed you to survive injuries, which almost always happen.”

Bowman’s vision for the upcoming season includes him retaining his role in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.

"I won't be on the sideline, I'll tell you that right now,” Bowman said.

Bowman said he was not fazed with the 49ers selected Foster in the first round. Foster is likely considered the heir apparent to Bowman.

Shanahan called Bowman after the selection of Foster was made, but Bowman said he did not need to speak with the coach about why the selection was made.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Bowman said of the phone call, “but it was good to hear from him, to see that he had something to say or an idea of what he wanted to get across to me.

“But we haven’t talked about it. I did that on purpose. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ll compete with anyone, whether he’s 21 or 35. It doesn’t matter. I’m a guy who’s going to give my best effort and have full confidence in my abilities to play this game. I know how much I study this game. I know how good I am and that’s what was going to bring back here.

“It’s always a competition. There’s always someone trying to take your spot. As a player, if you keep that in mind, you’ll always put the work in that’s needed.”

 

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

49ers reissue Bryant Young's number

SANTA CLARA -- For the first time since Bryant Young retired following the 2007 season, the 49ers have placed his old number back into service.

Linebacker Dekoda Watson was issued No. 97 for the team’s organized team activities this week.

Young was a four-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time winner of the Len Eshmont Award as the 49ers’ most inspirational and courageous player. No 49ers player has worn No. 97 in the past nine seasons or offseasons.

Rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas is now wearing No. 94 after being issued No. 96 for the rookie minicamp. Linebacker Reuben Foster is wearing No. 56.

Rookie defensive tackle D.J. Jones now wearing No. 96. Cornerback Rashard Robinson switched back to No. 33 after an earlier change to No. 26. Running back Kapri Bibbs is now 26. Rookie running back Joe Williams is No. 32 after wearing No. 33 at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere in Los Angeles over the weekend. Veteran running back Tim Hightower is wearing No. 22.