SANTA CLARA – Alex Smith spoke to reporters after the Niners morning practice at minicamp on Tuesday. He said the offense has been able to try new thing and “push boundaries” because they have a full offseason this year. They hope the boundary pushing will improve efficiency on third down and in the red zone. Personally, Smith said he’s slowly perfecting his new throwing mechanics, and he’s changed exercises – no more bench press, lots of shoulder warmups before practice. I transcribed the full interview below. Enjoy.
Q: How often did you have to stay at the facility late last year because you didn’t have an offseason and you didn’t have minicamps, and how late were you staying?
ALEX SMITH: It just depended. Some weeks more than others. I don’t know if it was just because of the shortened offseason. Definitely in training camp and preseason I put a lot of time in, trying to play catch-up.
Q: How much has Greg Roman tweaked the offense this offseason?
ALEX SMITH: It’s kind of laughable to compare it to last year. This time last year we were at San Jose State doing what we could, which wasn’t much. This year, I know this offseason, even with the limited time and the new regulations we really got a lot of work in and really pushed the tempo. We’re not even close to where we were last year, but that doesn’t guarantee us anything. Obviously we’re a lot further ahead than we were last year, but you’ve still got to go out there and play and win games. It’s a good start right now.
Q: But how has the playbook specifically changed this offseason?
ALEX SMITH: Having a season under our belt, we have a huge volume of film to watch and areas to get better at, concepts we do well that we can build off, adding some things that we like here and there. You look around the league at who’s doing what well. For red zone and third down situations, you can look around the league and maybe add some concepts here or refine some things we need to work on. It’s the offseason. We’re not playing tomorrow. It’s like the driving range – if you yank one left it’s not the end of the world. You can try some things out here. You can really push the boundaries.
Q: Given how well you guys performed last year, it’s easy to dismiss the importance of the offseason program, but where will you guys improve the most from the full offseason?
ALEX SMITH: Everywhere except for the physical part of the game. That’s really what we’re not getting out here. No pads on. You can’t be physical, so it’s hard especially for the guys up front that really need the practice of using their shoulder pads, leverage, things like that. Even outside, the corners and receivers are used to getting press work, jam work, and you don’t get that right now. There’s other of focus and that’s where we direct our attention.
Q: So is the offseason program overrated?
ALEX SMITH: No, no, I’m not saying that. You’re limited – only so many practices, you can only be in helmets, no contact. Certain parts of the camp are very similar to the games and other parts aren’t. You try to get work in all areas and stay well rounded, but it’s tough to really practice the physical nature of the game out here when we don’t have pads.
Q: How do you think Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will affect the looks you’ll face from defenses next season?
ALEX SMITH: It’s tough to say at this point. They’re both explosive guys, they both have their strengths and they both can do a lot. Those guys have been around a lot of football. They’re both really smart. They have a great sense of the game no matter where you stick them. They pick up things fast. We’ll see what happens come season. The great thing is to have all these guys that can make plays. That really makes it tough on defenses.
Q: How have the mechanical alterations to your throwing motion gone so far?
ALEX SMITH: It’s gone well. It’s a work in progress. I’ve thrown millions of times; it’s not like I’m going to change things overnight. And these are very small things I’ve continued to work on. Sometimes I find myself at the end of practice – I don’t know if it’s fatigue or whatever – but all of a sudden I kind of fall back into some different things I’ve been doing. Just continuing to work, continuing to get better at it. I definitely feel better.
Q: Roman says you watch your individual throws at the end of the day. Do you see a difference between now and how you were throwing at the end of April?
ALEX SMITH: Yeah, a little bit. There are little things I’m conscious of. I know a big deal’s been made of the front knee, which is very true, but come football time I’m not sitting on top of a mound. It’s just football; it’s different. When 300-pound guys are running at you, you just react and throw. Those are the times when no one cares about the mechanics. I don’t care who you are – the deal is get the ball to the guy before you get tackled. It’s a give and take. There’s a fine line there. This is the time for me to really pay close attention to that stuff, that’s why I do pay close attention to the film. We have the QB Cam going and I can really watch my footwork and my mechanics. Come training camp and season when it gets competitive, I don’t want to be thinking about it – good or bad. It’s more about production then.
Q: What about the strength in your shoulder? Has that improved? Tom House said you were working on really small muscles.
ALEX SMITH: Yeah, exactly. Over time, as you get older as a thrower you get stronger in certain areas because of the repetitive motion, and you get weaker in certain areas. A lot of exercises counteract that. I feel great. I remember when I first talked to Drew (Brees) about it. The first thing he preached was the routine you build, the daily routine. This isn’t something you do now and then – it’s an every-single-day deal. In the long run he feels much better because of it. That’s something I’ve noticed, and I totally agree with it – the daily deal, the warm up, the routine you get into before you step out here on the field, and the difference it makes.
Q: You didn’t attempt a lot of far downfield throws last season – the deep go routes. Did that have anything to with the shoulder, the offense, the personnel?
ALEX SMITH: I don’t know. It’s not something I shy away from. I’m pulling the trigger whenever I can. Every game’s different. Every scenario’s different. There were some games maybe were I probably could have taken a few more shots, but a lot of them maybe not. It’s just the way the game went. I think towards the end of the year we certainly were stretching the field more. I don’t know if that’s because we got more comfortable, but towards the end of the year (we had) definitely more chunk plays, better play-actions passes and things like that.
Q: What are some exercises you do now that you didn’t do before?
ALEX SMITH: Quite a bit. The intense shoulder warmup even before you set foot out here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve just walked out here and started throwing, and how unhealthy that is. Not doing so much bench press is one of the things he preaches. As a football player, from the day I was a little kid all you want to do when you walk into the gym is bench press and pushups, Things like that are not really great for throwing, so I’m trying to stay away from them. And all those little muscles in the back of your shoulder don’t get nearly as much attention as the front of the shoulder.