|Alex Smith 'absolutely' open-minded about return in '09
Quarterback Alex Smith said he is open-minded about returning to the 49ers next season, realizing full well that he would have to accept a dramatic paycut.
He said he hopes to begin throwing after Christmas, and expects to rbe ready to go during minicamp in the spring -- regardless of where he might be in the spring.
Here is an excerpt from what he had to say this afternoon.
Q: Have you talked much to the organization about the plan for you?
Smith: We have not gotten much into that. I still stay in close contact with everyone. I talk to Scot (McCloughan) a lot, but we haven't gotten into anything like that.
Q: Do you want to be back here next year?
Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I'm still under contract for two years. I'm still a part of this team and working toward that.
Q: Is it a much more positive environment for you after what's transpired?
Smith: You know . . . not much has changed after the injury. I'm just working toward getting healthy. I've tried to stay focused on that. That's my job right now. It's my job to get healthy as soon as possible.
Q: Probably what the question referred to was the head coach (Mike Nolan) isn't around. And occasionally he'll still take a few more jabs seemingly directed at you. Do you think that will help you if you wanted to stay here long term?
Smith: I don't know. I think that'll depend on how things shake out around here -- and what happens. And, obviously, what happens in the coming months, that'll dictate a lot of things. As far as things changing for me, I haven't been able to do much anyway because of the injury.
Q: What is your relationship like with Mike Singletary? Does he ever talk to you?
Smith: Good. Yeah, absolutely. I see him around whenever I do my lifting or rehab. I talk to him whenever I can. It's hard for a player on IR. I like to be around as much as I can. But all these guys have a lot bigger job at hand, and a lot more time constraints. You hate to be a distraction at the same time. The things that have to do with me can be put off until after the season. Now, the objective is to beat St. Louis.
Q: Why did you make it a point to want to stay here and rehab?
Smith: I think just doing it right. It all comes back to that. You know, finishing things, and things I've been taught since I was a little kid. I don't want to do anything half-ass, just getting everything done, doing it right and working hard and achieving a goal. And I came here to be a great player, and to accomplish that. And, obviously, I've had some setbacks and things have gotten in my way, and I'm working my way around them. I want to get back out here, and that's something that really inspires me, that really gets me going. I think it's easy to look at some alternative choices. It's easy to take those. But I really feel the right thing to do is to do it the right way.
Q: You think your future will hinge on the direction the team goes?
Smith: I think. I guess that's what I think. Everything will start from there.
Q: Of course, you'll be asked to make some sacrifices (pay cut), too . . .
Smith: Yeah, potentially, absolutely. I mean . . . yes.
Q: Is that something you're willing to do?
Smith: Absolutely. Absolutely, I think . . .
Q: Do you think you have to re-invent yourself as a quarterback?
Smith: I think you learn from things you go through, so I don't know if it's necessarily re-inventing myself, but I'm constantly trying to get better -- constantly re-evaluating things. I'm far different than I was four years ago in a lot of ways, going through what I've gone through. I have a different appreciation of things, a different outlook on things, a greater understanding of the game at this level -- at the NFL level -- what it takes and what it takes to play quarterback at this level. I think it's not necessarily re-inventing but changing. You're always evolving and trying to get better. And trying to improve.
Q: Do you feel like you have to change? Because after two seasons you were making progress, and then the injuries happened.
Smith: Yeah, absolutely. As much as you're trying to let that shine through, I haven't had that chance to let that shine through. It's been kind of blocked out by injuries and not being able to play, and take those steps. It's that as much as anything, just trying to show my true colors. I do think I'm constantly trying to learn it. I think I was naive in some ways as a rookie, coming into this league, about the game and a lot of different aspects. In that way, I think I've become better.
Q: Would it be hard to re-invent yourself here?
Smith: It would be harder, absolutely, without a doubt.
Q: Because of the fans?
Smith: Everything. When you come with that type of expectations, especially with me, coming with the expectations, and for the fans, as well. It comes with part of the territory, so absolutely I think it would be harder.
Q: Is that a challenge you might embrace?
Smith: It is. At the same time it'll be difficult. I think it is something that gets me going. You start to get that chip on your shoulder, trying to prove everybody wrong.
Q: How has the culture changed here under Mike Singletary?
Smith: You know, it is difficult because I am a little more on the outside looking in, in that sense. I think Coach Singletary has done a great job from the sense of eliminating gray. If that makes sense. He's doing a great job of . . . the players have a better understanding of what they're being asked (to do) and what they're responsible for, and what's expected of them. I think in that sense, there's less gray. He's made it more black and white. Guys are a little more sure of what's expected out of them, what their responsibilities are, what their job is and what they have to go do. That gets told to them pretty often by Coach Singletary. So I think that's a good thing. Guys feel more comfortable with that. They know what they have to do, instead of always wondering. That might sound odd, considering we're playing football, but I think it's a very good thing.
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When asked again, specifically, about comments Nolan made about Smith, in regard to Antonio Bryant, Smith said:
"Yeah, that's, uh . . . it's not even pertinent enough to comment on. But, uh . . . it was news to me, I guess. I'll say that. Definitely, news to me."
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I'm for him coming back if he takes a paycut...
Soft-spoken receiver Isaac Bruce was announced as the winner of the Len Eshmont Award today, this team's most prestigious honor.
The other award winners were:
Bill Walsh Award: defensive end Justin Smith
Bobb McKittrick Award: center Eric Heitmann
Hazeltine/Iron Man Award: linebacker Takeo Spikes
Thomas Herrion Memorial Award: receiver Dominique Zeigler
The Eshmont Award, voted on by the players, is given annually to the 49ers player who best exemplifies the inspirational and courageous play of Eshmont, an original member of the 49ers from the 1946 team.
The Bill Walsh Award, voted on by coaches, is given to the 49ers team MVP.
The Bobb McKittrick Award is given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by McKittrick, who served as a 49ers a.ssistant for 21 years. (Heitmann is the winner for the third straight season.)
The Hazeltine is named for Matt Hazeltine, who played 13 seasons for the 49ers. The award is given annually to the most courageous and inspirational defensive player.
And the Thomas Herrion Award is given to the rookie or first-year player who has taken advantage of every opportunity, turned it into a positive situation and made their dream turn into reality.
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Preliminary injury report
Not expected to practice: RB Frank Gore (ankle), RT Adam Snyder (ankle), S Michael Lewis (abdomen) and CB Walt Harris (rest). Coach Mike Singletary said that they'd monitor Gore's progress day to day, and he hopes he'll be available.
Limited practice: LT Joe Staley (ankle).
Full practice: RS Allen Rossum (ankle)
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Tying up loose ends: On that final play against the Dolphins, running back Michael Robinson was split out wide to the right. When I watched the TV copy of the tape, I had a.ssumed it was Dominique Zeigler. However, Zeigler was not on the field. There were four WRs on the field: Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, Jason Hill and Josh Morgan.
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