49ers Blog and Q&A

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

March 10, 2009
Alex Smith: "unfinished business" brought me back

Alex Smith says he feels like he's getting a fresh start with the 49ers: "It is kind of refreshing," he said on a conference call. "Start fresh, start over and try to be the player you want to be. ..."

Here's the Q&A from the 12:30 press conference with Smith, who signed a new, salary-cap friendly two-year deal with the 49ers today:

Why was it important to come back to the 49ers?
It was definitely important to me. I really felt like I had unfinished business here. This is the team that brought me out and gave me my first chance, and I really felt like I had a lot to prove here to myself, the organization to my teammates, to the fans. And to really become the player I set out to become when I first came out of college. I'm grateful they gave me the opportunity to stay here and be a part of this.

What's your understanding about the QB pecking order going into minicamp later this month?
I don't know the specifics about how this first minicamp will work out as far as who's taking snaps with who. I'm just excited they're going to give me a chance to compete for the starting job. I guess I'm not totally sure on the specifics. I guess they'll work themselves out as we move along. Just excited that I'll get a chance to compete.

How's your shoulder?
It's doing well. My shoulder feels great. I don't want to put any percentage on it or anything on it like a number. But it's definitely better than I felt at any time last year. You know, I've been here working since the season ended and I feel really, really good with it -- excited to finally being healthy and getting out on the field and competing and not have to worry about it.

How extensively did you look at your other options before re-signing with the 49ers?
You know, it was a weird situation -- not knowing what was going to happen with me and not really being a free agent. So a lot of it was just hearsay here and there. You hear different things. And that's how I really found out that the feelings were mutual. That I wanted to stay here in San Francisco and they wanted me back. A lot of it was kind of rumors ... hearing different things. I can't even comment on it. But I'm thankful that I didn't even have to go down that road, that the Niners want me back and it just kind of all worked itself out.

Does it feel like a fresh start to you?
It does feel good for me. There's definitely a different feeling around the facility with coach Singletary here, with some of the new people he brought in. It's kind of a fresh attitude. You know with the new contract coming in and kind of the fresh start to compete, it is kind of refreshing in a sense. I feel like I can start fresh, start over and try to become the player I want to be.

What have you learned over your first four seasons?
You know, the football side out of it -- I think I'm just much more mature mentally. Not to say I was immature. I think I've grown up a lot. As far as this business and as far as being focused. I think I really was focused when I first came out, but I think I just have a better oulook on it mentally, a better strength about it, about what I need to worry about and what I don't need to worry about. The things I need to focus on and what are the right things to focus on so to speak. So in essense I really feel like I'm in a better place. My life outside of football is a much better place. Your life right after college -- you're a student athlete and all of a sudden you do get some money and you're a homeowner and different things. A lot of those things can be distracting. I feel like I'm in a better place in that sense. Just really focused on my career and set some goals for myself and I'm really trying to achieve them.

Will you be able to take part in the full minicamp?
I certainly hope so. I really haven't sat down with the trainers and the coaches to go over all those details. I expect to from my standpoint. but I really haven't talked to them about what will be best and what we're going to do. I definitely feel capable enough to go out there and make the passes I'm expected to make. We'll see, though. I guess I don't want to say anything for sure. But I definitely feel good enough to go out there and do it.

How does the playbook compare to the offenses you've run in the past?
The coaches have kind of been on the ball here, it seems like, and really gotten the playbook together in a timely manner and gotten it out to us. Definitely similarities to the systems we've had in the past, especially with the terminology at this point. Going over a lot of that, the language we're going to be using for motions, formations and the organization of the offense. A lot of that is very similar to some of things we've done in the past. There are definitely differences here and there. But I think the overall sense of it is very similar to what we've done in the last couple of years.

To which is it most similar?
I guess I would say more similar to the things we did with Norv, especially as far as the language is concerened. But there are some things that were taken from things besides that. But I guess I would say that's the most similar.

Have you spent much time with Jimmy Raye?
Yeah, a little bit. I've been around here (so) I've been with him a little bit. Nothing major. I think just getting geared up for when we start up next Monday. So other than that, nothing major. But I've gotten a chance to get acquainted with him a little bit, got a chance to introduce himself.

With the way Shaun Hill has played the last two years, do you feel you deserve a chance to compete for the starting job?
You know what -- I guess I don't really know on either of those. All I know is that I'm going to get a chance to compete and I'm excited about that. You know, Shaun has played well and we're really good friends. I think he's done a great job when he's stepped in. I think that's obvious. ... I guess I don't really know. I do know that they are giving me the chance and I'm excited about that. I'm glad it's against Shaun. He's a great guy. I can't think of a better guy to compete against. I'm excited about that -- excited that with me and him it'll all be on the table, and I don't have to worry about anything behind closed doors because we are so close. So, excited to compete against him.

You spoke in the past about the baggage that returning to San Francisco would bring with it. Is that still the case?
Well, I guess I think that's one of the things I referred to earlier when I said I feel like I'm in a better place, I have a better focus on things. ... you know, this is my fifth season, gonna be my fifth season, which is hard to believe. Yeah, I came in here with a lot of expectations. When you're the No. 1 pick that's kind of part of the territory. But in that sense, I guess I have a better focus. You know, I'm not going to really worry about that. It's going to come and I'll handle it when it comes. But until then, I'm just going to work hard and kind of work my tail off and get to where I need to be and compete. I'm not going to worry about the fans right now and what they're thinking. I guess I'm hoping that I get my chance to re-prove myself to them. So I'm not worrying about that right now.

You said you were in a better place. But what makes you think the 49ers are in a better place than they've been the last few years?
I think it's pretty easy to see when you're out here. I think back to my first couple of years and what was going on here and the changes that have been made -- I think from top to bottom I feel like this organization is headed in the right direction. You know, I definitely get that sense, I get that feeling around here, especially with coach Singletary and some of the new things he's added, the people he's brought in. It feels like we're close. And when you look at last season, look what happened with Arizona and it's such a great example of the NFL and what can happen and the parity in this league. I think that's exciting. I definitely think this is the best team that I've been a part of since I've been here.

Was there a risk in signing before the draft? Worried the 49ers will draft a QB at No. 10?
I guess it didn't really factor in for me. Like I said, they told me that I'll get a chance to compete for the starting job and that's all I really wanted, all I really asked. I really wanted that chance. Because I knew that if I got healthy and got back on the field, I just wanted a chance to reeprove myself and not worry about who else is out there and who they might draft, so it really wasn't a consideration of mine.

Some athletes might react negatively to a lower contract. Is there any ego involved in this with you?
Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I guess I don't measure myself with my contract, what I'm making. I'm out there to play some football. Having gone through what I've gone through the last couple of years, to be on the sideline, I guess I've had a chance to have a different perspective on this game. I feel fortunate to get another chance and to get back on the field. You know, I'm tired of watching, I'm tired of being in that training room and I'm ready to get back out there. I'm thankful I got the chance, so when it came time to restructure the contract it wasn't anything that had to do with ego or how much money I'd be making, I just wanted the chance to compete.

What have you been doing, throwing-wise in recent weeks?
I've been working with trainers since the season ended, been here rehabbing, implementing into a throwing program. At first it should obviously starts with playing catch and then you start backing up and you increase the length and velocity to the point now where -- you know, I try to set those guys up out there so I simulate some routes and spot throwing so to speak. So I try to get as much as I can done out there with them. And I feel pretty good. I feel like I am where I need to be at this point. I feel like I can make quite a few of the passes that I'm asked to make and, you know, it being March now, there's no real point to stress it to the point where something can go wrong, not that that could happen. But staying within mylimits I feel pretty good. I'm out there throwing passes. I probably throw anywhere from 50 to 80 routes dpending on the day I throw. And I end up usually throwing a few days a week.

Is it your understanding that this competition between you and Shaun begins in a couple of weeks with this mini-camp?
I'm sure. I don't think there's any reason to delay it. I think it'll start from day one and obviously I think it will continue to heat up as we move toward the season. But yeah, I expect it to start right away.

Is it safe to say that if there had not been a coaching change that you would not be back with the 49ers?
I don't know. I've never thought about that. The coaching change happened so luckily I didn't have to go down that road. But right now, with Coach Singletary here, the decision was easy. I wanted to stay. I wanted to be a part of this. And luckily they wanted me back.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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