49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 23, 2008
Alex Smith sticking it out through the season

First of all, welcome Raiders fans. I figure after yesterday's ugly brouhaha in Alameda some of you might be ready to defect to the other side of the bay. To begin your conversion, please commit the following to memory.

  1. Bill Walsh created the universe is five days.
  2. Joe Montana was given magical powers when, at birth, his right arm was dipped into the River Styx
  3. The 49ers will have a new stadium soon

football.jpg god.jpg

Tomorrow's lesson: The Dark Ages: 1975-1979.

Now onto business. One interesting development from yesterday's press conference was the revelation by Mike Nolan that Alex Smith approached him and asked to be fully involved with the team this season. When a player is placed on injured reserve, as Smith was earlier this month, he is under no obligation to hang around at all. And given Smith's past relationship with Nolan and his fortunes with the 49ers, you couldn't have blamed Smith if he left town never to see the inside of 4949 Centennial Drive again.

But if he's anything, Smith is a model citizen. Indeed, his lack of attitude is one of the things that distinguished him from Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and prompted Nolan to take him with the No. 1 pick. Nolan said yesterday that Smith will take part in all meetings and will be on hand for all the practices and home games, as he was Sunday. The only thing Smith is not permitted to do, per league rules, is travel with the team and stay at the team hotel before home games. Otherwise, it's as if Smith is one of the back-up quarterbacks.

"That's by his own choice," Nolan said. "And I think it's a great decision. I know that, it's like I said all along before Alex got hurt, I think Alex has great trust that the system that's in place is one that he can flourish in as well. And he's excited about that. Because it's very disciplined and detailed, and that's kind of the way he thinks. And it gives him a chance to be successful."

Some will see Smith's decision as further evidence that he lacks the edginess to be an effective quarterback in the league. He should have told Nolan to shove it, and then stomped out of the room. But sticking around is the smart move. First, it allows him to glean as much as he can from one of the best offensive minds in the league. Smith is a classroom guy and it's a safe bet he will emerge from the 2008 far wiser - in terms of offense - than he entered it. And it also sends a good signal to the other 31 teams in the league. In all likelihood Smith will be released next year. How many teams would be interested in signing him if there was a sense he abandoned his team?

On a related note, Nolan was asked how many other players on IR have done what Smith is doing. "Not to the extent he does," Nolan said before ticking off some names of other players - Damane Duckett, Jay Moore - who are on IR. The third name he said was Shawntae Spencer, who, of course, was not on IR. Nolan seemed to catch himself, saying, "Shawntae last week was just injured so there's nothing there. But again, any guy that's injured stays around and does something else or something further than that."
Maiocco's been reporting for a week that Spencer may have torn an ACL against the Seahawks, thus ending his season. The 49ers, as is their custom these days when it comes to injuries, have said precious little on the topic. Did Nolan slip up and spill the beans? We'll likely find out soon enough...

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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