49ers notes: QB rotation of Smith, Kaepernick, Smith

August 25, 2011, 8:06 pm
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith will start the 49ers' third exhibition game Saturday night against the Houston Texans, coach Jim Harbaugh said.Colin Kaepernick will get into the game as early as the 49ers' third offensive possession. And, then, Smith might return the favor and replace Kaepernick.Harbaugh is taking a non-traditional approach to the third exhibition game, which is typically the closest thing to a dress rehearsal to the regular season. Instead, Harbaugh said he will likely use the opportunity to get many of the team's top reserves ready for the regular season."The reason for that is for those guys fighting for their football life, we want them to have the ability to play in the game," Harbaugh said. "But, also, see them against other starters, against the Texans' starters."RELATED: 49ers camp report (824): My two left feet
Kaepernick is the 49ers' backup quarterback. Harbaugh said he wants the rookie to get experience against a starting NFL defense, just in case he is needed at some point during the regular season."Just looking forward to what's going to happen during the season," Harbaugh said, "I'd rather have Colin ready and experience football with the starters, against the starters and National Football League savvy before we have to get to that point."After Smith leaves the game, he might return to action to brush up on some "situational football," Harbaugh said."You want to get your starters into as many situations as possible," Harbaugh said. "He might return for a two-minute drill or another series."Harbaugh said he would like to get veteran third-string quarterback Josh McCown some action in Saturday's game, too.
Receiver Michael Crabtree has yet to be removed from the physically-unable-to-perform list after reporting to training camp with a left foot injury. But the 49ers expect major contributions out of him during the regular season.Behind the scenes, Crabtree is rehabbing his foot and being an active member of group discussions, Harbaugh said."He's been outstanding with his participation in the meetings," Harbaugh said. "His understanding and knowledge of what we're trying to do is very good." Crabtree and cornerback Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) are two starters from a year ago who are nursing injuries. Harbaugh was asked if Crabtree and Spencers were "assumed starters.""No, I wouldn't say that," Harbaugh said. "Football players get better by practicing football. That's what we go by. Who's practicing better? Who's playing better in games? Who's playing well?"49ers Mailbag: What Crabtree can learn from Edwards
And without having any practice time this summer to evaluate, Harbaugh said the coaching staff must go back and look at last season's game films."There's a level that you can evaluate there: poor, medium, outstanding, so you can predict how they will fit in once they're healthy," Harbaugh said. Receiver Dominique Zeigler could see his first playing time of the exhibition season after he was removed from the PUP list this week. Zeigler is returning from a torn left ACL that he sustained Dec. 16 against San Diego."He's surprised me with what he can do so quickly after re-engaging on the practice field," Harbaugh said.Zeigler is one of 11 healthy receivers battling for a spot on the roster. Undrafted rookie Chris Hogan also returned this week from an ankle sprain.