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March 28, 2013
"It was crazy": Crabtree says QB decision initially divided 49ers locker room


Michael Crabtree today described a divided locker room after Colin Kaepernick supplanted Alex Smith at quarterback as well as the bizarre sight of seeing Smith, the longtime starter for the 49ers, suddenly relegated to backup duty at practice.

"I hate to talk about it. But you have the starting quarterback and a couple of weeks later, he's the starting scout-team quarterback," the 49ers receiver said on the Rich Eisen podcast (which is well worth a listen). "And he's taking all the snaps with the scout team. It was kind of crazy to see."

Smith and Crabtree have had an uneasy relationship. In 2010 Crabtree intimated that he preferred Troy Smith's go-for-broke approach to Alex Smith's more conservative one. He also seemed to resent the fact that he broke his foot before the 2011 season while taking part in an lockout practice organized by Alex Smith. Earlier this week, Crabtree said on NFL Network that Kaepernick "trusted me more" than Smith, which is why his statistics were better later in the season.

Crabtree said the team's locker room was initially in turmoil after Jim Harbaugh tapped Kaepernick to start in New Orleans Nov. 25 over Smith, who had recovered from the concussion that gave Kaepernick his first start a week earlier.

"You had guys on Alex Smith's side, guys on Colin Kaepernick's side," Crabtree said. "I was on the winning side ... You can't beat the guy who was hot. Kap was hot. As soon as he came in, even though we lost that game - I think it was a tie, that game - he came in and it just went up from there. We were scoring that many more touchdowns. We were just going every drive it seemed like. ...We had like a triple threat with Kap's feet, the passing game and the running game."

Crabtree said the locker room division went away when Kaepernick showed what he could do on the field. "I think Kap kind of won everybody over by winning," he said. "Everybody loves a winner, you know. ... First it was up in the air, then you find out who's your quarterback. And you've got to ride with him because he's your quarterback. I don't know, man. Like I said, it was crazy in the locker room for a little bit.

Crabtree also refused to say anything bad about Smith, who was traded to Kansas City earlier this month. "Like I said, Alex Smith is a good guy," the 49ers wide receiver said. "He's been through a lot being a San Francisco 49er through all the boos and in the last year, the year before that he's been through so much. I wish him success with the Chiefs, man."

Crabtree also spoke at length about the 49ers' ill-fated final sequence in the Super Bowl. Like other 49ers, such as left tackle Joe Staley, he felt the 49ers should have run the ball "a couple of times." He also said he momentarily lost his vision after a hard hit by Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

Crabtree explained he lost vision after the third-down play on the goal line after he took a big shot from Baltimore Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith.

"He hit me all in the face and I couldn't really see after he hit me," Crabtree said. "... Then it just came back. It's not concussion-like. When you get hit in football, it's going to feel like you can't see. It's going to feel intense. But it snapped back. It happens all the time in football."

He said he was back to normal for the fourth-down throw that Kaepernick had to rush to avoid the blitz. "I look up, the ball's already there," he said. "Because he had no time. ...
It ain't nothing but motivation to come back next year and do my thing."

-- 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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