SANTA CLARA -- Left tackle Joe Staley feels badly for a benched teammate who had already gone through so much during his eight-year career with the 49ers.
But Staley strongly objects to any suggestion that he is evidence of a divided 49ers locker room after coach Jim Harbaugh's decision last week to bench veteran quarterback Alex Smith in favor of Colin Kaepernick.
"If people are thinking stuff about division in the locker room, it's not that at all," Staley told CSNBayArea.com on Wednesday.
"In my job, all I want to do is win. When Kaepernick is out there, he's my quarterback and I'm going to do everything I can to help him and support him."
Staley said he and Harbaugh spoke during practice last week, during which time Staley expressed his personal emotions about Harbaugh's quarterback decision.
"I was down for Alex," Staley said. "But it was never to the point where I was acting out. We just had a conversation. It was during a practice. We've had a lot of conversations. I've always had the relationship with Harbaugh that I can come to him with anything, regardless."
Staley said he wanted Harbaugh to know how he was feeling.
"I feel as one of the leaders on the team, I can go to the head coach and talk about anything," Staley said. "We've done that many times about a lot of things. It was not out of the ordinary for us to talk."
Staley compared his emotions to something that anybody would feel when something negative happens to a friend in the workplace.
"It's one of those situations where, as a friend, I feel for Alex, personally," Staley said. "But it was never a situation where I was distraught and had a grudge against anybody or I was pissed and I wasn't going to do my job.
"I'm 100-percent supportive of whatever the coaches' decisions are. I'll do whatever I can to help this team win games. But like anybody who has a co-worker that they're close to, and something happens, and you see him go through it, you feel for him as a friend."
Staley, a six-year pro, has been close friends with Smith since he broke into the league. He said he also has a "great relationship" with Kaepernick, a second-year player.
"I back him 100 percent," Staley said.
When asked about the potential for a divisive 49ers locker room, Staley said that has never been a concern -- even on a topic that has become a hot-button issue locally and nationally.
"There's none of that at all," Staley said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. I want to see Kap do the best he can. I want to see him lead us to a Super Bowl. That's what the goal is.
"But as a friend, I feel for Alex. But I'm not going to apologize for feeling sorry for my friend. But it's a business. And I understand that, and I'll go 100-percent with Kaepernick."