Alex Smith was the story of the spring (in a good way) and I have a feeling that he'll be the big story coming out of the first day of training camp (in a bad way). That's because Smith's first pass attempt, an all-too-familiar double clutch and throw-the-ball-away, was met with a chorus of boos from the 1,000 fans on hand. Boos? On the first day of practice? Directed toward a quarterback who has come back from not one, but two, shoulder surgeries?
"I think it's outstanding," Mike Singletary said after practice. "Because Alex has to learn to deal with it."
Smith took the jeering in stride, saying it was "part of playing quarterback in the NFL." Pressed on the issue, he did admit that it was a little surprising. "Well you know, eight in the morning out here, I wasn't sure how many people would show up this morning. I kind of expected more this afternoon. The great thing about camp is having the fans out here. So often we practice out here with no one but the cameras, so it's kind of nice. It's a nice change."
To be honest, Smith actually looked ok this morning. After his double clutch, he held the ball again before throwing a short pass to JJ Finley on his second attempt. The next pass was deep over the middle to Brandon Jones. The fourth pass was perhaps his best, a comebacker along the sideline to Arnaz Battle. Smith is a notorious slow starter, and today's practice was true to form.
The bottom line is that despite his comeback from shoulder surgery, Smith will not get a lot of leeway from the Faithful in 2009. The message today is that the grace period fans gave him when he first arrived in Santa Clara is over. It's either 'start quickly' or 'stay on the sideline.' You have to wonder if that reaction will or should factor into Singletary's mind as far as who starts the season.
Shaun Hill, it should be noted, didn't look any better than Smith during the team portion of practice. His first pass to Vernon Davis was late and was almost picked off by Dashon Goldson. He connected with Jones on the second pass, and Jones was hit to the ground by Goldson. The third pass, this one to Delanie Walker, was tipped by Michael Lewis and nearly intercepted by Goldson. The best was the fourth pass ... Hill waited for Davis to get open, then hit him with a 20 yarder.
Singletary, meanwhile, wasn't bowled over by either player. In fact, expect Singletary to strike this "I'm not impressed" pose throughout camp in an effort to squeeze the best from his players. "I want to find a guy to lead the team," he said. "And right now I'm not seeing that guy."
In case you're wondering, Damon Huard was the No. 3 QB but rookie Nate Davis managed to get a couple of attempts in an 11-on-11 situation. Davis' first attempt was way too late. He tried to throw to WR Michael Spurlock, but the pass was intercepted by fellow rookie Curtis Taylor. The second, however, highlighted Davis' potential. Jones ran a slant on the play and Davis had only a small opening to hit him. Hit him he did - with a laser beam that smacked Jones in the hands but was too hot to handle. Blame the WR on that one ...
The next practice starts at 4:20 p.m. ...
-- Matt Barrows