SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith on Friday went through simulated contact on Friday that is required to return from a concussion.
Just prior to the 49ers' departure for New Orleans, coach Jim Harbaugh had a hand-held blocking pad and pushed it up against Smith as he was throwing passes on the practice field. Team medical director, Dr. Dan Garza, closely observed the brief drill.
Smith made it through OK, but must remain symptom-free over the weekend to gain final clearance. But even if Smith is ultimately cleared to play there is no guarantee he will step on the field Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Entering the weekend, the 49ers officially list Smith as questionable.
Harbaugh declined to announce Friday whether Smith or Colin Kaepernick will start against the Saints. Kaepernick received most of the practice time this week, and is expected to get the call. Smith could be in line to serve as the 49ers' No. 2 quarterback on Sunday.
"We feel like there's no competitive advantage for us to release that information for our organization or our team," Harbaugh said. Harbaugh said there's "possibly" a competitive advantage in not releasing the information before kickoff."Maybe one percent, a small percentage," Harbaugh said. "We'll chase that, sure. We just do not get into what the roles are going to be, how we're going to use them and the specifics of that."The 49ers might keep the drama alive until the starting offense runs out on the field Sunday at the Superdome."It's just not something we think is an advantage for us to talk about," Harbaugh said. "And you may have your opinions on it. It's unorthodox. So be it. You can call me names if you want, or make sport of me. But that's the way were going to go about it."Smith went through a full week of limited practice for the second week. He experienced concussion symptoms last week and was denied clearance to suit up against the Chicago Bears on Monday.
Smith has not experienced symptoms -- headaches or nausea -- since Tuesday, Harbaugh said. Kaepernick has taken most of the 49ers' first-team practice snaps, which could be an indication Kaepernick will make his second NFL start on Sunday.Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 49ers' 32-7 victory over the Bears on Monday. That performance might have earned him a chance to unseat Smith as the starter.
Harbaugh did not comment on whether he has told the quarterbacks of their roles. But Harbaugh refuted a Sports Illustrated report from Wednesday that stated Harbaugh informed Smith that Kaepernick would start."Not factual. Not factual," Harbaugh said. "And I know there are probably a lot of reports out there.Harbaugh said Bob Lange, the 49ers' director of public relations, brought some national reports to his attention over the past three days."Really, I didn't see any that were factual that he showed me, including that one," Harbaugh said.