Harbaugh takes a close look at Alex Smith


Harbaugh takes a close look at Alex Smith

PART 1: HARBAUGH'S JUGGLING ACTEditor's note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series taking a look at Jim Harbaugh's first month as 49ers' head coach. This installment looks at the 49ers' quarterback situation, and how Harbaugh is forming his own opinion of Alex Smith without any outside influence.Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comQuarterback Alex Smith rolled a hand truck into the 49ers' locker room the day after the season ended to assist in the process of clearing out the clutter from a locker he occupied for the past six years.
He appeared ready to get a fresh start in an NFL locale where his mere appearance on his home field does not elicit boos.But the new coach of the 49ers might try to convince Alex Smith to stick around. Jim Harbaugh, on the job for one month, has studied Smith as a player and has gotten to know him as a person.In fact, Harbaugh and Smith have met several times face-to-face. And they have even gone out together to the practice field behind the team's Santa Clara complex."Yeah," Harbaugh told Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, "we were out on the field -- just two guys throwing the ball around."Asked whether he used his on-field interaction with Smith as a chance to work on mechanics and fundamentals or whether it was just a way to break the ice, Harbaugh answered, "Both.""I've had a couple meetings with him," Harbaugh said. "It's been good. And I look forward to continuing that (this week) when he's back in town."Smith is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason for the first time in his career. When free agency begins, Smith will be allowed to speak with other teams and weigh his options before signing a contract. The 49ers hold sole negotiating rights with Alex Smith through March 3.
MAIOCCO: 49ers must have multiple QB plans
Veteran David Carr is the only 49ers' quarterback who has a contract with the club for 2011. Like Alex Smith, Troy Smith is scheduled for free agency this offseason. Nate Davis, who spent last season on the practice squad, had no contractual ties to the 49ers and has already signed a futures contract with the Seattle Seahawks."Right now, as you look at it, there's only one quarterback on the roster," Harbaugh said. "We got to look at all possibilities. That's my job -- to make the best possible evaluation for the organization."And part of that evaluation, Harbaugh says, is to not allow the opinions of others to influence him.The home fans vocally expressed their displeasure with Alex Smith last season. And, now, they see how local product Aaron Rodgers, from the same draft class, has ascended to stardom as the Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Green Bay Packers.
NEWS: NFL headlines
Can Alex Smith succeed with the 49ers? Does he need a change of scenery to continue his NFL career? Those questions are irrelevant to Harbaugh, he said."My job is to make evaluations and come to my own conclusions at every position, as it relates to the entire football team," Harbaugh said. "And I like to make those on my own without outside influences."General manager Trent Baalke, who has the final say over the 49ers' 53-man roster, seemingly made it clear where he stood last month in comments to Pro Football Talk."Is the quarterback of the future on this roster?" Baalke said on Jan. 11. "I think it's obvious that he isn't at this point."Harbaugh's reaction?"It was factual," he said. "The only quarterback on the roster right now is David Carr. So take that as a factual statement. The quarterback of the future is not on the roster right now. We're talking about multiple guys we need to get on the roster."Technically, Alex Smith is still on the 49ers' roster until March 3. But, of course, he will need a new contract to play again for the team that drafted him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.Alex Smith had six different offensive coordinators in his first six NFL seasons. He has not played for an offensive-minded head coach while with the 49ers. Then-coach Mike Singletary benched Alex Smith for the franchise's most important game of their eight-season playoff drought.Singletary called on Troy Smith to start a must-win game against the St. Louis Rams on Dec. 26. But Troy Smith struggled, and Alex Smith was inserted into the game in the second half of the team's 25-17 loss that knocked the 49ers out of playoff contention.Alex Smith started 10 games last season for the 49ers and compiled a career-best 82.1 passer rating. The 49ers were 3-3 in Troy Smith's starts, but he completed just 50.3 percent of his attempts and had a passer rating of 77.8.Harbaugh's brother, John, included Troy Smith among his final cuts before the start of the 2010 season. The Ravens elected to stick with two quarterbacks -- Joe Flacco and Marc Bulger -- rather than carry Troy Smith as the No. 3.When asked specifically about Troy Smith, Jim Harbaugh answered, "Like everybody, I don't want to get into each specific guy. But that's also my job to evaluate the same with everybody."Certainly, a huge part of Harbaugh's offseason will consist of finding an answer at quarterback. Harbaugh has clearly kept the door open for Alex Smith's return. And the list of veterans who might become available in free agency or via trades includes such players as Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton and Donovan McNabb."You have to understand, we're trying to look at every possibility with your football team, in terms of talent and acquired talent," Harbaugh said. "And those are the ways, through free agency, draft, trade and coaching your own players You have to put together a specific plan for improvement."In addition to the acquisition of a veteran or two, the 49ers can be expected to select a quarterback in the seven-round draft, which is scheduled for April 28-30.
RELATED: Matt Maiocco's 2011 NFL mock draft
Harbaugh, who played quarterback for 15 NFL seasons, will have plenty of time over the next 11 weeks to thoroughly scout the prospects. The 49ers' top three scheduled draft picks are at Nos. 7, 45 and 76 overall."We're working on free agency," he said, "and the draft will ramp up as we get closer to the combine." In the final of the three-part series Tuesday, Jim Harbaugh becomes familiar with roster he inherited, and he begins the process of designing the team's schemes.What's your take? Email Matt and let him know. He may use it in his Mailbag.

49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp


49ers offense: Top competitions entering training camp

The 49ers open training camp next week in Santa Clara with a number of competitions going on simultaneously on both sides of the ball.

Coach Kyle Shanahan did not hire an offensive coordinator. He will assume the role of running the offense, as he atempts to remake the 49ers' offense to his specifications.

Brian Hoyer is set at quarterback. Joe Staley will line up at left tackle. Kyle Juszcyzk was signed as the highest-priced fullback in the NFL, and the starting wide receivers figure to be Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin.

After that, things are a lot less certain.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ top four training camp battles on offense...

The tackle positions appear straight-forward with Staley and Trent Brown – though Brown will have to hold off Garry Gilliam to retain his starting job.

But there are a lot of options for the 49ers at the three interior positions. Zane Beadles started all 16 games last season at three different positions. He enters camp as the front-runner to start at left guard.

Jeremy Zuttah, who was added to the Pro Bowl roster at center last season, came to the 49ers in an offseason trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore will compete for the starting job. Tim Barnes, who started 32 games the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, is in the mix, too.

If Zuttah is not the starting center, he can transition to either guard position to compete with Beadles on the left side or, more likely, the right side.

Joshua Garnett, whom former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke traded up to select in the first round of the 2016 draft, will have to show dramatic improvement over his rookie season to return as the starter at right guard.

Brandon Fusco, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, started 16 games at left guard in 2015 and 14 games last season at right guard.

It is within the realm of possibility the 49ers could have a complete overhaul at tight end, as none of the five players who finished the season with the team is a lock to win a roster spot.

The 49ers selected George Kittle in the fifth round. He showed a lot of promise with the best showing of any tight end during the team’s offseason program. The 49ers this offseason also added blocking tight end Logan Paulsen, who has experience in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and undrafted rookie pass-catcher Cole Hikutini.

Vance McDonald was the subject of trade talks during the draft – just months after signing a contract extension with $9.1 million in guaranteed money. Garrett Celek and Blake Bell also face stiff competition in order to be back on the 53-man roster.

Carlos Hyde is entering the final year of his original four-year contract, and he has competition for the first time since Frank Gore’s exit cleared the way for him to be the featured back.

Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner handpicked former Utah running back Joe Williams for their scheme. Williams got off to a slow start after joining the offseason program, but he eventually put himself into a position to compete for a significant role in training camp.

Veteran additions Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs will be competing for roles in the backfield, as well. Undrafted rookie Matt Breida had an impressive offseason during the non-padded practices.

Jeremy Kerley was one of the few free agents from last year’s team that the 49ers had any interest in re-signing. Kerley was the best receiver on the team a year ago -- and it wasn’t even close. He caught 64 passes for 667 yards for the league's least-productive passing game.

The 49ers selected Trent Taylor in the fifth round, and he made an immediate impact during the offseason program after catching 136 passes for 1,803 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior at Louisiana Tech.

A year ago, Bruce Ellington was the 49ers’ best receiver during training camp before his season came to an abrupt end with a torn hamstring in an exhibition game. The onus is on Ellington to remain healthy and prove himself to the new coaching staff.

O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada


O.J. Simpson a free man, granted parole in Nevada

UPDATE (11am on Thursday) -- O.J. Simpson is a free man. The San Francisco native was granted his parole on Thursday by the Nevada Parole Board with a unanimous 4-0 decision. 

Simpson, who turned 70 this month, can be released from prison as early as Oct. 1 after armed robery charges put him away for almost nine years -- the minimum of a 33-year sentence. 


LOVELOCK, Nev. -- O.J. Simpson once thrilled crowds as he ran for touchdowns and hurdled airport seats in car rental ads to achieve Hollywood celebrity before he was acquitted of murder in the 1995 "trial of the century" in Los Angeles.

Now, an aging Simpson will appear as inmate No. 1027820 in a starkly plain hearing room in a remote Nevada prison Thursday to plead for his freedom. He's spent more than eight years behind bars for armed robbery and assault with a weapon after trying to take back sports memorabilia in a budget hotel room in Las Vegas.

Simpson, 70, will ask four parole board members who sided with him once before to release him in October, a likely possibility with his clean prison record.

It will be a stunning scene for a charismatic star once known as "The Juice" who won the Heisman Trophy as the best U.S. college football player in 1968 and was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

He appeared to have it all.

He went on to star in Hertz commercials and movies like the "Naked Gun" comedies and do sideline reporting for "Monday Night Football" before his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman were slain in 1994.

Simpson is expected to reiterate that he has kept a promise to stay out of trouble, coaches in the prison gym where he works and counsels other inmates.

"I guess, my age, guys come to me," Simpson told parole officials four years ago.

The same commissioners granted him parole on some of his 12 charges in 2013, leaving him with four years to serve before reaching his minimum term.

At Simpson's side in his bid for freedom will be lawyer Malcolm LaVergne, close friend Tom Scotto, sister Shirley Baker and daughter Arnelle Simpson.

O.J. Simpson is expected to explain what he would do and where he would live if he is granted parole after reaching the nine-year minimum of his 33-year sentence.

He was convicted in 2008 after enlisting some men he barely knew, including two with guns, to retrieve from two sports collectibles sellers some items that Simpson said were stolen from him a decade earlier.

"My crime was trying to retrieve for my family my own property," Simpson told the parole officials in 2013 before apologizing.

"Make no mistake, I would give it all back," he said, "to get these last five years back."

The items disappeared after Simpson was found not guilty in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife and her friend and before he was found liable in 1997 in civil court for the deaths.

He was ordered to pay $33.5 million to survivors including his children and the Goldman family.

A Goldman family spokesman said Ron Goldman's father and sister, Fred and Kim, won't be part of Simpson's parole hearing but that they felt apprehensive about "how this will change their lives again should Simpson be released."

"They will remain patient and optimistic that the system will do what is necessary to ensure the public's safety remains a priority and that proper justice will be served," spokesman Michael Wright said this week.

The Goldmans believe Simpson got away with murder in Los Angeles, and many people felt the stiff sentence handed down in 2008 in Las Vegas wasn't just about the robbery.

Now, even the retired district attorney who prosecuted Simpson for the heist acknowledges that Simpson has a good chance to go free. But David Roger denied Simpson's sentence was "payback" for his acquittal in the Los Angeles slayings.

The former prosecutor said Simpson took a gamble when he rejected an offer to avoid trial by pleading guilty to a felony that could have gotten him 2½ years in prison.

"He thought he was invincible, and he rolled the dice," Roger said.