SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith's 2011 preseason got out to a rough start against the Saints, and it taught the 49ers quarterback a valuable lesson.
"Wear your mouthpiece for preseason," Smith said. "Bad decision last year."
Smith was without his mouth guard when he was roughed up in San Francisco's 24-3 loss to New Orleans. Other than protecting his dentition, Smith's main goal in this year's preseason opener is to make plays.
"I'm going to go out there and try to execute each and every single play I get, and make the most of the opportunity," Smith said. "Keep playing until they pull me out."
Harbaugh has a number in mind for the snaps each starter will likely receive Friday night, but he hasn't informed the team, and Smith sees it as a positive.
"You start telling guys, 'Hey you get this many plays,' he starts counting down," Smith said. "Waiting to get out."
With two of his top receivers new to the franchise this year -- Randy Moss and Mario Manningham -- you would expect Smith to want to build a connection with them in their first live action against NFL opponents. Smith shied away from setting goals with his receivers, instead saying he's just looking to get the work in.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh confirmed Randy Moss would play, though it will be Ted Ginn and Michael Crabtree who make the start. It will be the first preseason game of Crabtree's four-year NFL career.
Smith is looking forward to trying out his weapons against an unsuspecting opponent.
"When you're going against our defense, you're seeing the same looks a lot of the time," Smith said. "Now all of a sudden, we're going against somebody new. And you have that unknown factor. You have to make those adjustments on the fly.
"You have to go through it."
Smith will go through it against the Minnesota Vikings when he makes his first trip to Candlestick since last year's NFC Championship Friday at 6 p.m.
He'll be wearing his mouthpiece.