General manager Scot McCloughan was on Sirius NFL radio this morning. What McCloughan said then, and what he reiterated to me later at the team's OTA practice today, is that Alex Smith is throwing the ball better than he has since joining the 49ers. Not, "He's throwing the ball better than he has since separating his throwing shoulder," but "He's better than he's ever been as an NFL quarterback." That's a big statement and one that ought to bolster Smith's ever-growing confidence.
Smith indeed has looked impressive over the last couple of weeks. He throws a tight spiral and his accuracy seems to get a little better with every practice. He even has a bit of a swagger - not J.T. O'Sullivan-sized, mind you, but a swagger nonetheless - that he hasn't shown in four seasons. In short, he does look like a different quarterback.
The problem is that Smith is not an instinctual quarterback. As has been written many, many times before, he's not the kind of guy who can come into a new situation, quickly get the gist of the situation and move his team down the field. He's the type of guy that, in the now-famous words of college coach Urban Meyer, has to know the entire system inside and out before he can make the split-second decisions an NFL quarterback needs to make.
Which is why offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who will have the loudest voice in deciding the quarterback competition, is wise to wait until his QBs play a few preseason games before settling on a starter. For while Smith may not be instinctual, instincts are Shaun Hill's strength. Hill is street smart while Smith is book smart. Yes, Smith has looked very good in non-contact practice, a regimented situation in which there is no pass rush and little ad libbing. The question moving forward is whether he can carry that over into a game.
McCloughan also ended -- hopefully -- any speculation that Michael Vick could wind up with the 49ers. Here's a snippet courtesy of "The Sirius Blitz":
Host, Jim Miller: "Two lightning rods this off-season are Brett Favre and Michael Vick. Any discussions on the potential - there have been whispers out there - that possibly San Francisco could be a landing spot for Michael Vick?"
Scot McCloughan: "Well, I think what happens there, and I totally respect it, is people understand who Mike Singletary is and understand that he has no problem giving guys second chances. Coach and I have sat down. We sat down and talked last week. We had an off-week of OTAs and we discussed about Michael Vick and we're not going to go that route. We will not do it."
Host, Adam Schein: "So Michael Vick is not on the radar for the 49ers?"
Brian Jennings has retained his title as highest-paid long snapper. Here are some of the details of his new five-year extension. Jennings got about $1.1 million to sign and about $1.85 million guaranteed. The contract averages about $1.2 million or so over the life of the deal. It used to be that during field goal and extra point attempts, the defensive players could wail away at the snapper when that player's head was down. That's no longer permitted, and rightly so considering how vulnerable he is. The point is that you have to wonder whether Jennings, who will be 38 when his contract expires and who is in excellent shape, might have another contract extension ahead of him.
A day after sprinting for the first time, Michael Crabtree continued to test out his surgically repaired foot. Crabtree, Arnaz Battle (foot) and Ray McDonald (knee) all did some light running today under the watchful eye of strength and conditioning coach Duane Carlisle. The 49ers want Crabtree to do as much running as he can between now and training camp so that he doesn't go down with a leg injury when he resumes practicing July 30.
Reggie Smith (groin) and Jason Hill (hamstring) did not practice. Neither did Nate Clements (pneumonia). Chilo Rachal (personal reasons) and Isaac Bruce (veteran status) did not attend today's OTA.
-- Matt Barrows