Jimmy Raye wants Alex Smith to be more like Sarah Palin. That is, he thinks Smith must add a little "maverick" to his game. "You need a certain amount of maverick in you to really embrace the position," Raye said after the team's walk-through this morning. To this point, Smith has been quite the opposite. He's been a classroom guy, a guy who's analytical, a guy who, according to Raye, is "very anal, extremely intelligent. ... "And when you have that kind of intellect, you tend to be somewhat analytical. Detail and structure are important to that individual. He learns more from playing. He hasn't played a lot of football in the NFL."
This, of course, is a variation of what Urban Meyer said about Smith in his now-famous "non-functional" conference call in 2005. Meyer's point that day was that Smith was so analytical, so detail-oriented that he wouldn't be a good quarterback until he understood the entire offense. Meyer said that Smith was a guy that needed constancy - something he'll get for the first time in his career with Raye returning to run the offense in 2010.
As far as becoming more of a maverick, Raye predicted that will come as Smith digests the full offense and becomes "functional" in his system. Once that occurs, he'll become more like Brett Favre, who is the poster child for maverick behavior. Both Favre and Raye were with the Jets last season, and you can tell from Raye's comments that, as is the case now in Minnesota, the quarterback wasn't exactly adored by the coaching staff in New York.
Asked if, in terms of temperament and intellect, Favre and Smith were polar opposites, Raye drew a big laugh when he said, "Well, definitely intellect. ... (then with a chuckle) No, I'll pay for that one."
Raye admitted he'd have to walk a fine line in getting Isaac Bruce playing time Sunday in St. Louis. The 16-year veteran hasn't even set foot on a practice field in six weeks, and Raye said Bruce's safety was his biggest concern. But Raye also said he wasn't "going to disrespect what he's done over the course of his career with a token gesture." Raye said he'd sit down with Bruce and discuss his role this week. Bruce didn't practice yesterday. It's unclear whether he will practice today.
The play of the offensive line has to be one of the biggest disappointments of the 49ers' season. One of the reasons, Raye revealed today, is that the foot injury that sidelined left guard Davis Baas in training camp continued to be a problem early in the season. Raye said Baas and rest of the interior linemen only recently have begun to jell liked the team hoped they would have in the summer.
Vernon Davis has gone with what I call the Barrows look. That is, he shaved off his dreadlocks and is going with the Mr. Clean look. Davis said he wanted to kick off the new year with a new look. If you ask me, 2009 was pretty good to Davis ...
-- Matt Barrows