Here's a column I wrote today about Alex Smith and the triumphant return of his right arm. Before the Smith bashers start crashing this site and accusing me of bias, I plan on giving equal time to Shaun Hill later this summer. I'm driving to College Park, Md. - I'm in Virginia this week - on Monday to chat with some of Hill's former college coaches. (I'm also expecting to find a solid gold statue of Vernon Davis in the Terrapins' weight room.)
Smith, however, deserves recognition. If you were to write a manual on how to ruin a young quarterback, you would follow, step-by-step, Smith's progression since 2005. He was thrown into the starting lineup too soon, he had inferior talent around him, he suffered a serious injury to his throwing arm and his head coach, the guy who should have had his back, abandoned him at his lowest moment. In short, Smith has had it as rough as any young quarterback. Ever. You may not think he's the 49ers' quarterback of the future, and in truth he's shown only flashes of potential amid mostly ordinary and subpar play. But give him credit for bringing himself back physically - and emotionally - to a point where he is at least challenging for the starting role.
-- Matt Barrows