49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 15, 2013
Small-hands Smith: How a myth is born ... and never dies

smallhands.jpg

Alex Smith doesn't have small hands. When it comes to American males, his 9 3/8-inch mitts are rather large. And he's right around the average for NFL quarterbacks. Joe Flacco's, for instance, are 9 5/8 inches. Aaron Rodgers' measure in at 9 3/8 inches just like Smith's.

But things like "facts" and "measurements" and "data" have not sunk the myth that Smith has teeny, tiny porcelain doll's hands because, well, because it's hilarious. Even his family thinks so.

"It's still a family joke," Smith said Wednesday. "My little sister still calls me 'small hands.' It won't ever die. If hands come up as a topic, someone's going to make a crack."

The small-hands myth dates back to Smith's rookie season when he fumbled 11 times in nine games. There were several instances -- especially in Seattle and Washington -- when he lost the handle without even getting hit. He simply couldn't maintain his grip through the throwing motion. Which begged the question, "Does this guy have the hands of an otter or what?"

Back then, however, the opposing team handled all footballs used in games. And they would send in, perhaps strategically, balls straight out of the box that still had a sheen of waterproofing that made them hard and extremely slick. The following offseason, a group of veteran quarterbacks led by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady petitioned the league to allow both teams to supply balls that had been scuffed up, worn in and had a better grip.

"I haven't had any slip out since -- knock on wood," Smith said. "But ever since that all came up it's been this 'hands' thing."

Further proof that Smith has a good sense of humor: He let me take the above photo. I told him I'd caption it: 'Wow, look how much Smith's hands have grown since he left SF!'

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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