Maiocco: Nothing easy about Smith-49ers union

June 2, 2011, 2:34 pm
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June 2, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comThe Alex Smith-49ers union has lasted six forgettable seasons. The highlight came in Year 2 when the 49ers surprisingly put together a 7-9 record, and things appeared moving in the right direction for Smith and the organization.Then, two years were wasted because of injuries to Smith's throwing shoulder. Prior to 2008, then-49ers general manager Scot McCloughan stated that Smith would not return in 2009 unless he finished that season as the clear-cut starter.Smith spent that season on injured reserve. Yet, when many believed at that point the 49ers and Smith should part ways, the sides reached agreement on a two-year deal that included a sizable pay cut.

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He remained healthy the past two seasons, and his statistical play showed incremental improvements. But there were no improvements to the 49ers' win-loss record. And when Smith's contract expired at the end of the season, he was admittedly ready to leave town.But circumstances always have a way of working together to make sure Smith and the 49ers remain together.This time, the owners-imposed lockout and coach Jim Harbaugh's offer of a playbook on the day the lockout briefly lifted on April 29 convinced Smith that the right thing for him to do was to give it another shot.Yes, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft will be back with the 49ers after the lockout lifts.RELATED: NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement page
"It would have been easier, to go to a new place, a fresh start, and maybe I should have," Smith told reporters from the San Jose Mercury News and Sacramento Bee on Wednesday. "But at this point, I'm happy with where I'm at and really attempting to be about something different in this league."It's unprecedented that a No. 1 overall pick remains with the organization that drafted him after such a sketchy first six seasons. It's amazing the 49ers have stuck with him. And it's even more improbable that Smith -- despite hearing loud boos last season -- decided to remain.After all, the easy thing for Smith would be to run away and close this chapter of his professional career."Nothing against decisions that other guys have made in the past, (but) I feel like it's such an easy way out," Smith said. "I don't know of any other guy that has ever attempted to do what I'm doing.If there's anything that I feel like I stand for as a person, not even a football player, it's that."