Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

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Maiocco: Production matters in 49ers' captains vote

Sept. 6, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

On the day that cuts were made to 53 players, the 49ers held a vote to select their two captains for the season.

The result of the vote was interesting. It spoke to what the players value from a teammate.

Leadership might be great, but the quality that swayed the 49ers players was production.The defensive captain is Patrick Willis, an understated tackling machine who has been named to the Pro Bowl each of his first four NFL seasons. He is on pace for a Hall-of-Fame career. Willis is the 49ers' best defensive player.

The captain on offense is running back Frank Gore. His team-record streak of four consecutive 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons ended last year when he still gained 853 yards despite missing the final five games with a fractured hip. Gore is the 49ers' best offensive player.

When coach Jim Harbaugh announced Saturday which players were voted as 49ers captains, it was only natural to begin to think about which players were not chosen.

Of course, there was one name that immediately came to mind . . . Alex Smith.

Smith was the leader for the 49ers during the five months when the 49ers needed somebody to step up and take charge during the lockout.

Smith was the point person with San Jose State officials to arrange for his teammates to use the Spartans' weight room and fields. The players were not allowed to have any communication with the 49ers' coaches and were banned from the team's property. Smith served as director of football operations, head coach, offensive coordinator and, yes, starting quarterback during that time.

Harbaugh handed Smith a copy of the 49ers' playbook when a judge ordered the lockout lifted for one day in late-April. The next day, the lockout was back in effect after the NFL appealed to a federal court.

Smith spent a month studying the playbook and perusing the PowerPoint material and film he collected from the 49ers' coaching staff. Then, he got in touch with every 49ers offensive player to arrange two weeks of playbook study sessions and on-field work.

The result was "Camp Alex," which gave the offense a head start they would not have otherwise been afforded. Smith's work was commendable -- especially considering he had yet to sign his one-year, $4.9 million contract. Gore and right guard Chilo Rachal were the only 49ers offensive players under contract, then and now, who did not attend any of the sessions.

Smith has done everything in his power to give himself the best chance of having a successful season. And, sure enough, Harbaugh named Smith the starting quarterback for the season opener after he outplayed rookie Colin Kaepernick in practices and in the four exhibition games.

Beyond that, Smith has a lot to prove in his seventh NFL season after being the No. 1 overall pick in 2005.

Coach Mike Singletary named Smith a captain prior to last season. But when Smith did not produce as well as Singletary had hoped, the coach lost faith in Smith and gambled his future on the play of Troy Smith. Singletary was fired, landing a job as Minnesota Vikings linebackers coach, and Troy Smith is still waiting for the phone to ring.

Alex Smith is the 49ers' quarterback and, thus, he must be viewed in the locker room as a leader.

There is little doubt he is one of the most-liked players on the 49ers. His teammates recognize Smith's perseverance, conscientiousness and commitment. All those qualities are great. If Smith did not do all the right things off the field, there is no chance he would still be suiting up for the 49ers.

But it's also clear that leadership by example -- performance on game days -- is what ultimately wins the respect of the locker room.

Bills sign two former 49ers

Bills sign two former 49ers

The Buffalo Bills have signed two 49ers free agents within the past two days.

After signing wide receiver Rod Streater on Wednesday, the Bills announced the signing of linebacker Gerald Hodges on Thursday.

The 49ers acquired Hodges in a 2015 trade with the Minnesota Vikings for center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick. Hodges started 12 games last season and ranked second on the team with 92 tackles.

Hodges left the 49ers shorthanded for a late-season game against the Atlanta Falcons when he violated team rules. Then-coach Chip Kelly did not disclose the nature of Hodges infraction. Hodges offered no explanation or apology.

The 49ers entered the game against the high-powered Falcons with just two healthy inside linebackers due to Hodges’ deactivation. Starter Nick Bellore sustained an elbow injury on the third play of the game, and the 49ers were forced to use safeties Antoine Bethea and Vinnie Sunseri, and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks at various points of the game.

The 49ers showed no interest in re-signing Hodges as a free agent.

Streater, a five-year NFL veteran, saw action in all 16 games last season after being acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in September. He caught 18 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.