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May 17, 2011
Smith speaks: Quarterback's return seems likely

Six days after becoming a father for the first time, quarterback Alex Smith had the mother of all workouts with other 49ers players in the South Bay. Smith arrived shortly after 11 a.m. and left just before 3 p.m. In between, he threw passes to three 49ers receivers - Josh Morgan, Kevin Jurovich and sixth-round draft pick Ronald Johnson - before joining the three for a weight and cardio workout.


Afterward, Smith, who is an unrestricted free agent, spoke publicly for the first time since the 2010 season ended. He said he didn't want to be quoted but said the thrust of his comments could be relayed. The main thrust - that there's a good likelihood that he will return to the 49ers for a seventh season.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has been hinting at that development and has even gone so far as to give Smith a copy of the playbook. Harbaugh has complimented Smith at every turn during the last four months. During the draft, he said that if Smith were to return, he would be the odds on favorite to win the team's starting job in 2011. Smith has a standing one-year contract -- believed to be worth up to $5 million -- on the table when the lockout ends and free agency begins.

The positive vibes evidently are mutual. Smith, who seemed unwilling to return to the 49ers when the 2010 season ended, said he's been impressed with Harbaugh, with whom he met regularly before the lockout. Smith has never had an offensive-minded head coach in San Francisco, and he said it was clear that Harbaugh knew how to handle quarterbacks. He said he felt very good about the 49ers coaching staff.

There also is a familiarity element to Smith's return. He's been working out regularly with 49ers teammates since February. Those workouts have included regular throwing sessions with receivers. Ted Ginn was not on hand Tuesday, but he has taken part in other player-organized workouts. Top receiver Michael Crabtree has not been part of that group. He's been working out in the Dallas area.

Since receiving the playbook two weeks ago, the South Bay group has been running the plays from that playbook. Players on Tuesday said there was a benefit to familiarizing themselves with the schemes and the language but that there was no substitute for having coaches run practice. "That's the way I learn, anyway - when we're all here as a team and we're all practicing," said Morgan.

Smith echoed that sentiment. He has had a different playbook nearly every season he's been with the 49ers. Harbaugh's, he said, was most similar to the one he had in 2005 when Mike McCarthy, also a West Coast offense disciple, was the offensive coordinator. Smith said it was clear that Harbaugh's was a quarterback-driven playbook.

The other players who were part of the Tuesday workout were offensive linemen Joe Staley, Adam Snyder and Mike Iupati; defensive lineman Justin Smith and Isaac Sopoaga; safeties Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor; cornerback Nate Clements and outside linebacker Parys Haralson. Safety Taylor Mays arrived at the location but did not stay to work out today.

Smith's wife, Elizabeth, had a boy on Wednesday. Both mother and child are doing well, Smith said.

Harbaugh appeared this afternoon on the NFL Network. Asked about the possibility of Smith returning, he said: "We're well-documented on the record that we very much want Alex to be a 49er next year. And he really is a 49er. In my mind, and hopefully in his mind, he is a 49er and we look forward to him competing for that starting quarterback position next year."

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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