Gruden, Jaworski break down the 2011 Alex Smith


Gruden, Jaworski break down the 2011 Alex Smith

Alex Smith was the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft. We all know that Aaron Rodgers slid all the way to No. 24 in that draft. But if the 49ers had not taken Smith, which team would've chosen him?Jon Gruden's Tampa Bay Buccaneers had the fifth pick. They selected running back Cadillac Williams after Smith, running back Ronnie Brown (Miami), receiver Braylon Edwards (Cleveland) and running back Cedric Benson (Chicago).If the 49ers did not select Smith, would he have gotten past the Buccaneers at No. 5?"We never took a quarterback in the first round," Gruden said on a conference call Wednesday morning to talk about the 49ers' upcoming "Monday Night Football" against the Pittsburgh Steelers."I wanted old guys. I wanted 38-year-old guys. I don't like young, talented quarterbacks, so probably not."Gruden and fellow ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski spoke at length about Smith and the 49ers."I've always felt Alex was a talented guy," Gruden said. "That's why he's the No. 1 pick in the draft. I think he's in a system right now that he understands and suits. Certainly, Coach (Jim) Harbaugh's hands-on approach, I'm sure, has helped him. It looks like he's playing with confidence. He's playing with some generalship. He's taking care of the ball. He understands he's going to get some opportunities throughout the game with the defense they have. I really just see a guy who's running the show. He's not taking a lot of risks. He doesn't feel like he has to do it all on his own.RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs
"And (Michael) Crabtree has emerged. I'm really impressed with (Kyle) Williams, this No. 10. He's making plays. And Ted Ginn has really found his niche in this offense. They have a lot of speed. Vernon Davis can make plays. And they can hand the ball off to (Frank), and if have to punt, so what. They'll get another opportunity. I really see a mature quarterback. I'm happy for Alex Smith. After all he's been through, it's good to see him winning and having some fun for a change."They haven't lost a game with their offense. At time they've been able to win games with ball control, high percentage passing and Alex Smith has made some timely plays."Jaworski noted several years ago that Smith has a mechanical flaw that leads to some problems with accuracy. Smith has a tendency to throw with a rigid front leg. Typically, Jaworski said quarterback must have bend in that plant leg to throw with consistency.Even as Smith is having the best season of his career, he has not corrected that issue. And Jaworkski said he will no longer harp on the flaw."He really hasn't made a whole lot of improvement in his mechanics," Jaworski said. "I remember a few years ago when I broke down his locked left leg, and I still think that knee lock causes him problems with his accuracy. But it's something he's comfortable with, and it's unique to his passes. I've kind of let it go at that. It's not something I like to see. I think it's a detriment to quarterbacks when they don't have that flexed knee and a cushion. But Alex has played well. And more important, he understands what his role right now."He is the quarterback. He understands system right now. He's not asked to drop back 40 times and win the game for the 49ers. They're winning it with outstanding defense, they're coming off the ball and road-grading people. Frank Gore is having a rock-solid year. And the other component is helping out as well. Kendall Hunter is making a contribution. They're a two-tight end oriented offense. They want to play smash-mouth football and they'll take their shots. And think this is where Alex has been very good. They run the football. They'll throw the play-action game and he'll take his shots. It's a good fit for where he is in his career right now, this style of offense. So I applaud the way he's playing right now. He's very careful with the football and not making a whole lot of mistakes."If Jaworski has a criticism of Smith it's that he has held the ball too long on occasion and taken unnecessary sacks."I'd like to see the ball come out a little quicker," Jaworski said. "There are times he's taking sacks because he's not releasing the football, but other than that I applaud the way he's playing." The Baltimore Ravens, coached by John Harbaugh, are in tied atop the AFC North. John Harbaugh said he will help Jim Harbaugh get prepared to face the Steelers as much as he can. But Gruden does not envision it serving as much of an advantage to the 49ers."I don't know how beneficial it is because the Ravens on offense have nothing to do with the 49ers on offense," Gruden said. "And there's no guarantee the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to play the 49ers like they played the Ravens. So you got to be careful when you work on the telephone. I've always been reluctant to do that. I really think this game here is a totally different set of circumstances than what Ravens saw from the Steelers in their two ballgames. I never put a lot of stock into that."Gruden said the 49ers' defense can pretty much take care of its own job without much help."The San Francisco 49ers always been a very good defensive team," Gruden said. "They've been talented. They've been stingy against the run. They're improved in secondary. I think the addition of (Donte) Whitner has really helped them on back end. And then the addition of Aldon Smith has changed them. They didn't get that kind of pass rush from some of the previous pass-rush specialists. I think those two additions really stand out to me."

Kaepernick's parents defend his anthem protests: 'Very proud of our son'

Kaepernick's parents defend his anthem protests: 'Very proud of our son'

Colin Kaepernick began his silent National Anthem protests in late August.

For almost four months, his parents have remained quiet.

But after reports that Kaepernick did not have the support of his parents, Teresa and Rick Kaepernick reached out to ESPN's The Undefeated on Friday to set the record straight.

"Colin is carrying a heavy load and following a difficult path that he truly believes in. He is putting his entire future and possibly his life on the line for those beliefs. As his parents, it pains us to read articles and tweets saying that his family does not support him; this could not be further from the truth. We want people to know that we are very proud of our son and admire his strength and courage in kneeling for the rights of others," the couple said in a statement to the publication.

Kaepernick's parents also commented on those you have called their son un-American or labeled his protests as anti-Military.

"Colin has chosen to kneel for the national anthem as a protest to the continuing racial inequality in this country. He has explained his reasons for this in multiple interviews, yet it seems some people still do not understand his point. For whatever reason, there are some who want to view this as an anti-military protest or an un-American stance. These views could not be further from the truth, but we know that people will believe what they wish to believe. The recent remarks (attacks) by Admiral Harris supported by the Pentagon are over the top, and we feel the desire to make a public statement in support of our son," The Kaepernicks said in their statement.

They concluded their statement by discussing the reaction the family received due to Kaepernick's protest, including detailing the hate mail that has been sent to them.

"When Colin first 'took a knee', his family was as surprised as anyone. We did not understand why he was doing this and were overwhelmed with the public reaction and hate. Colin not only received terrible racist tweets, but also received letters directly to our home similar to that recently received by [Denver Broncos linebacker] Brandon Marshall. We were truly shocked at the amount of racist hatred out there! Until this had occurred, we had naively believed that the racial atmosphere in this country was far better than it actually is. Prayer and talks with our son gave us a much better understanding of the reason for his protest and how we should view it."

The Undefeated's Martenzie Johnson also spoke to Teresa Kaepernick by phone on Friday and she threw her family's support behind her son.

"I just want to be on the record that we absolutely do support him," she said.

49ers, McDonald agree to five-year extension

49ers, McDonald agree to five-year extension

The 49ers signed tight end Vance McDonald to a five-year contract extension through the 2021 season, the team announced late Friday.

The deal is worth $35 million, including $16 million in guaranteed money, ESPN reported. The actual contract terms and amount of fully guaranteed money is expected to be less than the reported figures.

McDonald ranks third on the 49ers with 24 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns. He has touchdown receptions this season of 75 and 65 yards.

"Vance has shown consistent growth throughout his four-year career and his production this season is the result of his dedication and hard work,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We believe he has only scratched the surface of what he will be able to accomplish in his career. Vance is a tremendous ambassador for the 49ers, and his passion for helping others provides a wonderful example for this organization. We look forward to his continued contributions to this organization, both on and off the field.”

McDonald is in the final season of his original four-year, $3.99 million contract he signed as a second-round draft pick in 2013.

In McDonald’s three previous seasons, he caught just 40 passes for 475 yards and three touchdowns.

McDonald spoke last week about the greater chances he's gotten to prove himself since the 49ers traded Vernon Davis last season.

“I just always look back at the opportunity when Vernon went to (Denver),” McDonald said. “Just being able to have the trust and the opportunity to start games and play every down.”

Said 49ers coach Chip Kelly, "He’s one of our weapons on the offensive side of the ball and he runs better than most tight ends in this league. So really depends on week to week what people have available at the safety spot to kind of match up with him. But he’s certainly someone that I think people defensively have to game plan for.”