Day 1 recap: Alex Smith free-agent talk muted

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Day 1 recap: Alex Smith free-agent talk muted

For the first time since he was selected with the first overall pick of the 2005 draft, quarterback Alex Smith spent a day not committed to the 49ers.Smith remained unsigned Tuesday, the first day of free agency. And that rates as an upset, considering both sides seem to agree that they want a deal to get done. And over the weekend while taking part in a Kurt Warner charity event, Smith promised, "It will get done."An offer from the 49ers has been on the table for a while. On Monday, 49ers CEO Jed York said, "The ball's in his court."Clearly, the sides disagree on Smith's value in dollars, years or structure of the proposal. Otherwise, this deal would've been hammered out long ago.

RELATED: Jed York addresses Alex Smith contract status
Free agency began at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and Smith spent his first day in NFL limbo since the time seven years ago when he was uncertain if the 49ers would indeed make him the first pick in the 2005 draft.Sure, Smith remained unsigned for several months last spring and summer during the lockout, but he was always committed to the 49ers. Coach Jim Harbaugh gave him the playbook, and Harbaugh gave Smith's wife flowers after the couple experienced the birth of their first child.This offseason, it was Smith's turn to provide the clues that he's loyal to the 49ers. First, Smith went on stage in Indianapolis the night before the Super Bowl to make an acceptance speech on behalf of Harbaugh, who was named NFL Coach of the Year. Then, Smith caddied for Harbaugh during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.Everyone still expects the deal to get done, but it's more than a little curious why Smith has reached the free-agent market, forcing 49ers.com, the team's website, to remove his name from the team's official roster. Blake Costanzo was the 49ers' coaches choice as the team's special-teams candidate for the Pro Bowl last season. Costanzo came to the 49ers on the recommendation of special-teams coordinator Brad Seely a year ago, and he did not disappoint.
Costanzo, who is New Jersey through and through, showed up one day in early August to sign with the 49ers wearing a San Francisco Giants ballcap. From that point on, he was all-49ers.RELATED: Blake Costanzo headed to Bears
That's why it was surprising that general manager Trent Baalke decided against bringing him back. The 49ers want their special-teams players to be able to play defense, too, and the personnel department did not consider Costanzo as an option at inside linebacker, if he were needed behind Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman.Top backup Larry Grant is a restricted free agent, and he could leave if another team decides they want him to start. The 49ers re-signed Tavares Gooden to a one-year, minimum-level deal. Gooden started 12 games for Baltimore in 2009.RELATED: 49ers re-sign Gooden to one-year deal
And it wouldn't have taken a whole lot to retain Costanzo, either. He ended up agreeing to a two-year deal with the Chicago Bears worth a little under 2 million, including a 400,000 signing bonus, a league source said.
After signing cornerback Perrish Cox to a minimum-level deal early in the day and flirting extensively with free-agent cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Eric Wright, it appeared as if the 49ers had turned the page on Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rogers.RELATED: Cox promises 'from here on out, I'll show it'
But the attention the 49ers paid to others on the cornerback market ended up helping them get a four-year deal done with Rogers. The exact structure and terms are not known, but it was reported as being worth 29.3 million.The Dallas Cowboys are considered the prohibitive favorites to sign Carr, while Wright reached contract terms with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday morning. The 49ers begin Day 2 of free agency with an estimated 15 million in cap space -- taking a guess that Rogers' deal counts around 3 million in 2012.As CSNBayArea.com reported on Tuesday, receiver Randy Moss signed a one-year deal that counts only 1.75 million against this year's cap. He received no guaranteed money, and another 750,000 is tied to game-by-game roster bonuses. Moss will earn 46,875 for every regular-season game he suits up for the 49ers.In essence, the 49ers get Moss for a six-month tryout. If the 49ers decide at the end of training camp that he does not fit with the team, the 49ers can cut him and they would not have paid Moss a penny.The 49ers aren't done looking at wide receivers, either. After Joshua Morgan left to sign with the Washington Redskins, the 49ers on Tuesday brought in Chaz Schilens (Raiders) and Brandon Lloyd (St. Louis) for visits. The first day of free agency was a quiet one for 49ers notable free agents Alex Smith, Adam Snyder and Ted Ginn.And, now, on to Day 2.

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

49ers specialists get drenched in preparations for inclement weather

CHICAGO – The 49ers trained for the expected low-30s temperature and snow at Soldier Field with a week of workouts in the 80-degree heat of Florida.

However, the team’s specialists got some practice handling wet footballs during the 49ers’ final practice in Orlando, Fla.

Special-teams coordinator Derius Swinton and his assistant, Michael Clay, made a game of it. Long-snapper Kyle Nelson had to execute 10 perfect snaps to holder Bradley Pinion for field goals. Then, Pinion moved back to punt formation, where another 10 in a row were required.

But they had to be perfect while Swinton and Clay squirted water on the ball and at the hands of Nelson and Pinion, who also received a blast of water in his ear hole at one point.

“We always look up to see if there’s a chance of rain or snow, and we go, ‘Wet-ball drill,’ ” Nelson said. “They (Swinton and Clay) get to have fun, squirting water on us and use the water bottles.

“They make it as bad as possible.”

Nelson and Pinion teamed up to execute perfectly on all 20 field goals and punts.

“If I can do this, in a game it’s going to be even easier,” Nelson said. “They make it a lot harder in practice than it is in a game, so when we get to a game, everything is not as fast.”

The weather conditions on Sunday against the Chicago Bears will likely challenge Nelson, Pinion and kicker Phil Dawson as much as anyone. Dawson has been tracking the weather forecasts for more than a week to get mentally prepared for what he might face.

“Soldier Field is notorious for being a tough place to kick because of the wind and the field itself,” Dawson said this week on the 49ers Insider Podcast. “The footing is pretty poor. So when you add snow and moisture to the equation, it’s going to be one of those days.

“You need to have conversations with your coaches and let them know – be honest with them – about the difficulty. But you have to do that without it affecting your confidence to go out and get the job done.”

Said Nelson, “It takes more focus in bad weather. The snaps have to be a little more perfect. Bradley has to focus more on catching the ball, and Phil has to concentrate on the approach and be more cautious.”

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich provides insight into Chip Kelly's line of thinking

Mark Helfrich had a strong indication he would be fired as Oregon’s head coach. And he said he told Chip Kelly recently he would have no hard feelings if Kelly left the 49ers to return to coach the Ducks.

Kelly this week said he is not interested in abandoning his job with the 49ers to coach in the college ranks. Helfrich suggested during a radio interview on Friday that Kelly told him the same thing privately.

When it was suggested that Kelly hated to recruit, Helfrich did not disagree.

"That's a fact," Helfrich said in an interview on ESPN Radio's Russillo and Kanell. "I don't know hated recruiting. . . a dislike. A strong dislike. But I think Chip has that challenge in his mind right now to make it right in the NFL.

"I had some of those conversations with him a couple weeks ago when it looked like this was going south. That was a very awkward converation, but (I) just wanted to let him know that to take our personal relationship out of it in every way, shape or form if he wanted to consider this.

"But, me, reading between the lines, I think he wants to make it right in the NFL. I think he wants to win at that level. He's had a rough go of it this year, but he'll get it right."

Kelly compiled a 46-7 record in four seasons in Eugene, Ore. He left after the 2012 season to accept the head-coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles. Kelly was fired late last season and took the 49ers job two weeks later.

In Kelly’s first season with the 49ers, the club is 1-10. The 49ers are on a franchise-long 10-game losing streak entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

Helfrich was 37-16 in his four seasons at Oregon after his promotion from offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Kelly said he spoke with Helfrich the morning after he was fired.

“I just felt bad for Mark. I love him like a brother,” Kelly said. “He’s a tremendous person. He’s a hell of a football coach, but he’s an even better person. Just felt for him and the rest of the guys on that staff. It’s an unfortunate thing that goes on in this profession. We all know about it when we sign up, but when it happens you’re still taken aback by it.”

Kelly said he hoped his denial of any interest in the Oregon job would end all speculation about his future. When asked if intends to remain with the 49ers, Kelly said on Wednesday, “Yep. So we're all done with that, I hope."