Alex Smith didn’t deny the obvious: His on-field relationship with Michael Crabtree could stand improvement.
But the 49ers presumptive quarterback said the negative buzz about his off-the-field relationship with his No. 1 wide receiver – chatter fueled by recent comments from both Smith and Crabtree – has been blown out of proportion.
“As far as our chemistry off the field, how we get along, I think that’s totally off base,” Smith said. “He and I have gotten along since Day 1.”
On the final day of the 49ers’ players-only offensive camp at San Jose State, Smith spoke to a media gaggle for about 20 minutes and, not surprisingly, he fielded a few questions about Crabtree.
Smith had fired the first salvo, of sorts, when he asked last week about Crabtree’s absence from the regular throwing sessions Smith has had with other Niners wide receivers at SJSU.
“Great question,” he said. “Asking the wrong guy.”
Today, Smith said he regretted his response.
“I felt like when I got asked about him a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to speak on his behalf,” Smith said. “When I kept getting asked why he wasn’t out here, I really didn’t want to speak on his behalf. I really thought I was doing the right thing. I thought I was going about things the right way.
“Then all of a sudden it comes out in the paper. And I read it the next day and I was really disgusted with myself with the way it came out. It looked like a jab. I called him up and talked to him and apologized.”
On Monday, Crabtree’s odd refusal to acknowledge Smith’s status as the frontrunner to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback added another layer to the controversy. Smith said he spoke with Crabtree after his comments Monday, but said it wasn’t unusual for players to tune out NFL news during the offseason.
“So for him to be confused as to the quarterback situation isn’t the strangest thing in the world in my opinion,” Smith said. “… I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there confused on what’s going on. So it’s understandable.”
Let’s see, what other Crabtree-related issues did Smith address? There were several.
Crabtree’s sore feet caused by new cleats he wore Monday, which caused him to miss the final three practices? Smith noted Crabtree’s injury history – he had a stress fracture in his foot in 2009 – and said he even advised his wide receiver to not push himself through practices, saying it would be “stupid.”
Crabtree’s desire to work out by himself during the offseason? Smith said he wasn’t the only player to work out away from the Bay Area – Frank Gore has been in Miami, rehabbing from his hip injury – and noted that Crabtree attended every classroom session this week.
“He wanted to learn,” Smith said. “He wanted to be ready to go whenever this thing gets going. He’s done the right things. I just think a lot of this has been blown out a little bit.”
Was Smith being completely candid? Does he really have a great off-the-field rapport with Crabtree? There was likely some damage control at work and Smith, working without the benefit of an NFL public-relations staff, did an admirable job of diffusing the controversy.
Of course, statistics don’t lie. And Smith acknowledged his on-field chemistry with Crabtree needed work. Smith had a 55.4 rating when targeting Crabtree last year and threw five of his 10 interceptions when throwing in Crabtree’s direction.
“He and I would both agree that we’re definitely … unhappy would be an understatement for our play last year,” Smith said. “No question. He and I rely so much on each other. No question. Both of us aren’t happy.”