Just got off a quick conference call with the newest member of the 49ers, offensive tackle Marvel Smith. The topic of conversation quickly turned to Smith's back, which has been operated on in each of the last two seasons. The most recent procedure, Smith said, occurred on Nov. 26 and was done to remove a lose fragment from a disc in his lower back. Smith, 30, had a similar surgery in December of 2007. He said he was confident he'd remain healthy this time because he feels a lot better now than he did following the December 2007 procedure. "I noticed an instant improvement right away," he said of the most recent surgery. "Even when I was lying in the hospital."
Smith's two-year contract depends on him remaining healthy. He is being penciled in as the starter at right tackle. Whether he begins the season there depends on what the 49ers do with the No. 10 selection in the draft. Smith said he was not concerned that the 49ers might tap a tackle and said that he was ready to compete for the job if they do. "Doesn't matter to me at all," Smith said. "I don't have any control over any decision like that."
Smith grew up in East Oakland and - brace yourself, Faithful - was a Raiders fan. He did say, however, that he liked individual members of the 49ers (just not the team) and that once he was drafted by the Steelers all of his allegiances instantly vanished. He will join his new teammates in Santa Clara next week.
-- Matt Barrows