Jilted Smith is still a class act
BY JANIE MCCAULEY Associated Press
Monday, January 28, 2013
1/28/13 at 5:46 AM
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Alex Smith ran off the field at Candlestick Park two weeks ago to a standing ovation and cheers from the sellout crowd, not much different from the reception last January when he nearly took the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl.
Now relegated to a backup role with the NFC champions, Smith's trip to the Big Easy this week is hardly how he envisioned it.
This used to be his team. Now, he plays Joe Flacco in practice.
Smith is watching strong-armed second-year pro Colin Kaepernick direct the offense against Ravens star Ray Lewis and Co.
"I think a lot's being made of that. For one, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet," Smith said. "Yeah, I want to be out there. That's what you work for. At the same time, it is a team sport and these are all my teammates."
As he has done during other trying times in an up-and-down career, Smith has handled the change with class.
And Smith, the No. 1 pick from the 2005 draft out of Utah, left no doubt that he would appreciate and relish the rare opportunity before him.
"Absolutely, yes, very much so," Smith said of enjoying this experience despite the high-profile, midseason demotion.
Smith acknowledged when he lost the job to Kaepernick back in November that he had done nothing wrong but get hurt. Not only had he completed 26 of his previous 28 passes but had just earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
He sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. He sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter, beating the Bears.
After that, coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with the "hot hand," as he regularly put it.
"If you can't be happy for them, then something's wrong with you," Smith said of his teammates.
San Francisco's Alex Smith was the 49ers starting quarterback before being replaced at midseason by Colin Kaepernick. TONY AVELAR / AP