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June 6, 2011
Smith acts like a starting QB, but Crabtree still not sure

What kind of alternate universe are we living in when notorious nice guy Alex Smith is prickly toward the media and noted recluse Michael Crabtree holds court with the reporters for 10 minutes? That was the case on Day 1 of the 49ers offensive minicamp at San Jose State today.


First Smith. He organized the session, arranged for the facility and essentially coached the practice. Indeed, he was in full-on General Patton mode, including when it came to reporters. There were about half a dozen of us sitting in the bleachers of Spartan Stadium - the 49ers were still inside at this point going over class work - when a university staffer came out and told us that Smith didn't want reporters to watch when practice began.


As you'll recall, the Panthers and Patriots recently closed their team-led practices as well. The Patriots practiced at Boston College, a private university. The 49ers are at San Jose State, a public university. When we protested to the staffer, he returned with Smith who said that because it was the team's very first session with the new playbook, he didn't want any distractions.

There was back and forth between Smith and reporters - it was civil, but it was very much an argument - and we eventually acquiesced and left the stadium. Later, Smith agreed to open up a portion of the remaining practices this week to the media. So, problem solved. (Attn: owners and players: that's called a compromise).

I could write several paragraphs about why I feel the sessions should be open, etc., etc. but I will spare you the violin solo. Instead, I will point out that this was a rare instance where we've seen Smith's dander up. That has been a critique of Smith, even by some of his teammates. That is, some believe he's too nice to be a starting NFL quarterback.

On Monday at least he was acting like Tom Brady. And in my estimation, that's a good sign for the 49ers even if it means less access for the guys who cover the 49ers.

Now to Crabtree. While nearly every other receiver on the roster - Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn, Kevin Jurovich, Kyle Williams, even rookie Ronald Johnson - has found a way to throw with Smith this offseason, Crabtree has not. What's more, Crabtree said today he has been in the Bay Area for two months, mostly working out on his own. (He said he has thrown with some college quarterbacks; Morgan also has worked out with him).

When I asked Crabtree if he thought throwing with the quarterback was beneficial toward improving chemistry, he asked, "Who's the quarterback?" When I responded, Alex Smith, Crabtree said, "He's the quarterback? I'm just asking."

Later Crabtree said, "Whoever the quarterback is I'm gonna do my job. I'm going to do the best I can to get whatever he needs. You know what I'm saying? That's just how it's going to be. I'm not one-sided. I'm for whoever's the quarterback. It's just how I've been. Everybody knows that."

But wouldn't you agree that it appears as if Smith is going to be that guy this year?

"I wish I could tell you that." Crabtree said. "I know that you're all scratching at it. I wish I could tell you who is going to be the quarterback. I don't know. I don't know. Whoever the quarterback is, I'm 100 percent down with it and I'm ready to go. That's it."

Odds and Ends

• Today's sessions was set up very much like a regular spring practice. It started with Smith going over plays in a classroom setting indoors. Then the players went outside for practice, which ended with a conditioning session (players running wind sprints). After that, most of the players stayed around to lift weights. Morgan said today's emphasis was on the basics, including how to form and break the huddle, but that they were able to get into the playbook on the field.

• Anthony Davis wasn't in the best shape as a rookie last year. In fact, early on the offensive tackle struggled to finish the conditioning drills. That isn't an issue this year. Davis is in far better shape, and in fact he said he hired a personal strength coach. Davis, who played at 330 pounds last year, is aiming for 328 pounds this year but with a better muscle-to-fat ratio.

* Smith and other 49ers veterans made what one San Jose State official termed a "heartfelt" donation to the Spartan Foundation in exchange for being allowed to use the university's facilities during the lockout.

• The practice sessions will run through Thursday. There could be more team-wide sessions later this summer depending on how long the lockout lasts. For a list of the players who attended, click here.

-- 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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