Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth


Harbaugh and Smith: A story of birth and re-birth

Alex Smith had known Jim Harbaugh for only four months. He was about the last person he expected to see on May 11.Even though NFL rules limited the amount of contact team employees could have with players during the lockout, Harbaugh was there for Smith on the biggest day of his life.Smith's wife, Elizabeth, had given birth to the couple's first child, a boy they named Hudson. And Harbaugh was among the first visitors at the hospital that day."I was still in the nursery," Smith recalled this week. "He (Hudson) was just taken to get his bath. You know how they have those windows there? I was still there, and I look up and there he was."There he was.Jim Harbaugh, the man who had never before coached Alex Smith.RELATED: Har-Bowl 2011 -- full coverage

Jim Harbaugh, the man who would place his trust in Smith when previous coaches seemingly had been quick to lose confidence in the quarterback.On Thanksgiving night, the nation will pay rapt attention to Harbaugh and his brother, John, who is head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. There is an unmistakable family theme intertwined with the game.And that family connection is strong with Smith and his family, too.There is plenty for which Smith to be thankful. Professionally, it all began when the 49ers hired a new coach who met Smith, began studying his past performances with an open mind and developed a bond with him.Smith had already determined the 49ers were his best fit, though he remained unsigned. In late April a district court judge lifted the NFL lockout for a day before a higher court ruled it back in effect.During the brief window Smith could be at the 49ers office, he spent the entire day there, meeting with coaches and gathering material about the new offensive system.Smith would disseminate the information to his offensive teammates in a highly productive series of two weeks at San Jose State that were dubbed "Camp Alex."While preparing to be a first-time father, Smith diligently studied the playbook and watched reams of game video to familiarize himself with the 49ers offense to the point where he could teach it to his teammates.But for a few days in May, football was the furthest thing from his mind.Elizabeth was scheduled for an induced labor. But it wasn't until the next day that she gave birth."She'd gotten induced the day before and everybody knew she was getting induced the day before, so I think he thought he was coming the day after," Smith said of Harbaugh. "But he got there, literally, an hour after the birth."In advance, the 49ers requested permission from the league office for Harbaugh to visit the Smith Family to ensure he was in compliance with NFL rules during the lockout. Because it was viewed purely as a social visit, the league approved.Alex Smith said he was not expecting Harbaugh to visit."We'd just came out of the delivery room. She and I went into the nursery and she'd just gone back to the room," Smith said. "Coach Harbaugh had already been down there in the room and given her flowers."She was in the room with her parents and I stayed with him (Hudson). And she told him I was up one story in the nursery, and that's when I saw him."Smith is having his best season, as the surprising 49ers enter Thursday's game against the Ravens with a 9-1 record. Smith completed 62.4 percent of his attempts with 13 touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 93.9 in the first nine games.Harbaugh risked fines from the NFL during the lockout when he repeatedly spoke glowingly of Smith, sending clear messages to Smith through the media at a time when he was not allow to speak to him about football.And Harbaugh made another strong impression that day at the hospital.The coach-quarterback relationship is one in which there must be mutual trust and confidence. Look no further for the reason Alex Smith's career has experienced a re-birth.

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."