Smith starts over with a new fresh start


Smith starts over with a new fresh start

SAN FRANCISCO -- A year ago at this time, all Alex Smith wanted was a fresh start.Coach Jim Harbaugh was settling into his new job with the 49ers. And he began studying Smith, the team's harshly criticized quarterback, with an open mind.Smith, by the way, had already decided he needed to go somewhere -- anywhere -- after six unproductive years with the 49ers."I wanted to get to know him," Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh got to know Smith as much as possible -- as a person and as a player -- without completely obliterating NFL rules. He took him out on the practice field behind the 49ers team offices and they threw the ball around. They talked. They worked on mechanics. They developed a mutual trust."The things I wanted to know, boiled it down to one thing," Harbaugh said. "Did he want to start? Did he want to be in the fire? Or did he want to wear the ball cap backwards and backup somewhere?"In other words, was Smith content being a backup just to leave the pressure of playing for the 49ers, the team that selected him No. 1 overall in the 2005 draft? In 2010, Smith could not escape the loudest boos of his career from the fans at Candlestick Park.It would've been easy for him to leave the boos behind.It was the expected move. And nobody would've blamed him for escaping as quickly as possible an organization that provided defensive-minded head coaches and a new coordinator every season.
But Alex Smith choose to remain."That character of wanting to come back and do it here in San Francisco, which is pretty rare," Harbaugh said. "Probably somewhere between rare and extinct, not just for football players but for just about anybody. Most guys would say, 'The heck with that; I've had enough, time for a fresh start somewhere else.' And I thought we could really work with that kid. To me that was special."It was also a unique offseason all around football. The lockout lifted for one day because of conflicting court orders. But that one day window enabled Smith, unsigned at the time, to spend an entire day at the 49ers' offices gathering information about the 49ers' new offense.A month later, after sufficiently studying playbook, game film and PowerPoint material, Smith began teaching it to his teammates and organized two weeks of offensive get-togethers at San Jose State, known as "Camp Alex."His place as a leader was cemented during that time.Then, he went out and had the best season of is career, ranking ninth in the league with a 90.7 passer rating with 17 touchdowns and five interception. The 49ers offense tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season, enabling the team to finish with a 13-3 record, an NFC West championship, and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.And, now, it all comes down to this. Smith takes the field Saturday for his first NFL playoff game.Most of the attention and intrigue is on the other side of the ball with New Orleans' record-setting quarterback Drew Brees and the 49ers' defense -- a unit that surrendered just 87 points in eight home games this season.It's all but a foregone conclusion that Smith will be back with the 49ers next season regardless of how he fares in his first playoff game.Smith got the fresh start that he desired a year ago -- and he did not have to leave town to get it. And this playoff game gives him another chance to strike from the ledger all that happened in his first six forgettable seasons with the 49ers.

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."