Alex Smith says he's not sure what the future brings or where he'll be next season. But he's convinced he's never been a better quarterback than he is now.
He's got the statistics to prove it. He had a 104.1 quarterback rating - it would have ranked third in the NFL this year - when he left a Nov. 11 game with a concussion. In his last full game, he was 18-19 on pass attempts. And his second-to-last NFL pass was a touchdown to Michael Crabtree.
It seems that if there any silver linings in his bizarre, tough-luck season, it's that he can advertise himself to future employers as having been one of the top quarterbacks int the league when he got hurt.
"Yeah, I still feel like I have my best football ahead of me," said Smith, who has started 77 games but is only 28. "And in that sense, I feel like I've gotten better and better. ... I'm excited for my next opportunity wherever that comes. For me, it's being ready to go if that (opportunity) comes on Sunday here."
Tuesday, of course, was media day, the day when every coach and player arrived at the Superdome to be interviewed by thousands of reporters (one of them dressed as a super hero, another as a lucha libre wrestler, etc., etc., etc.). Fourteen 49ers, including quarterback Colin Kaepernick, were stationed at individual risers. The rest, like Smith, stood on the field to be mobbed with questions.
Smith, of course, did not spend the session complaining about his circumstance. He said he had nothing to do with a recent national report that said he wanted to be released - "No idea where that came from," he said - and that he felt it was necessary to set a dignified example for fans and his teammates.
He said his focus was on Sunday's game, but he also made it clear that he wants to be an NFL starter again.
"I want to win on Sunday. I want a ring," Smith said. "After Sunday, there will be enormous amounts of time to talk and think about that stuff. For me, it's just being focused and getting ready."
- Matt Barrows