SANTA CLARA – Here’s the transcript of Alex Smith’s Wednesday press conference, courtesy of the 49ers.
How do you see the Giants defense get different the last few weeks from the team you saw November 13th?
“I guess I’d kind of agree with Coach [Harbaugh] in the sense that when we played them, obviously they were coming off a pretty big high. They were on a big win streak, had just beat the Patriots at the Patriots. I think schematically, maybe doing a little less is what I see. Playing faster though, I think it’s even helped them. They’ve seemed to be creating more turnovers, playing faster on defense. Not quite doing as much, just playing really sound football. So, playing just as good as they were before I really feel like. Across the board, not a lot of weaknesses, obviously the defensive line is unique. To have that many guys that can get after the passer is unique in this league.”
You seemed to show a little edginess after your two scores in the fourth quarter, something that we don’t always see from you. I just wanted to ask you what was behind that, talking from the Saints, if it was the moment?
“As far as edginess, you mean?”
Well just maybe I don’t want to say trash talking, but there was some talk from you that we’ve never seen that before?
“There was kind of talking going on throughout the entire game, not much by me. Obviously, just a lot of emotion, the last touchdown there to [TE] Vernon [Davis]. Yeah, just a lot going on. I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t remember what was actually coming out of my mouth, but obviously I was pretty jacked.”
Alex, do you see parallels between this group? I mean, what you’ve faced here throughout your career as a top pick and what Giants QB Eli Manning’s gone through in the shadows of his brother, playing in New York, and sort of those paths?
“I’ve never seen any. Other than the fact that obviously we’re both first picks. His I feel like is a little different. To be [Colts QB] Peyton’s [Manning] little brother, number one pick, you go to New York, playing for the Giants. Obviously, that’s a lot of pressure. I don’t think anyone’s been in the situation he has. Those are pretty unique circumstances. Your older brother is arguably maybe the greatest quarterback ever, and a lot of expectations on you. And then you go to a big city like New York. So, I didn’t have to face those things.”
Alex, with the top season you’ve had, how much of a desire is there to say, I told you so?
“I think if we win this game and go to the Super Bowl it will say it in itself. I’m not thinking about that right now. I really feel like winning games as a quarterback this time of year speaks for itself. That’s how you do your talking. So, just focused on this game, preparing myself all week.”
Alex, for you and a lot of guys, this journey kind of began with those workouts way back at San Jose State. Looking back, what do you think was accomplished there and what carried over into the season? What had an impact?
“Tough to say. We were there all offseason, obviously working out and conditioning and running and doing that. But as far as coming together and doing the little camps and learning the playbook, really it was the ABC’s of the playbook, the fundamentals. Just kind of a small foundation, so that when camp did start, when the lockout finally ended, there was a little bit of familiarity there with the guys on kind of the language we’d be speaking, the verbiage, what some things meant. So, it was like the first coat of paint I guess, the primer, I don’t know whatever you want to call it. Just kind of the first taste of it and then obviously the bulk of it came in camp and during the season.”
Was there a chemistry built there? Was there a team-bonding effect?
“Oh for sure. Anytime I think you’re doing something like that, especially without the coaches’ influence, when you’re just doing it on your own. Guys were flying in from all over the country to be a part of it. Spending time with each other, no question I think that was kind of an unspoken gain from that.”
But following up on that, when you guys are stretching out on the field and talking about the upcoming season, what was the talk about? What your hopes were for the season at that time? Do you recall any of those conversations?
“No. I think the focus at that time of year is always obviously the season, but the division. Win the division. That’s the focus, I think, for most teams at the beginning of the year. The first step before you can talk about anything else. I think that’s what the focus has always been on. So, for us it was that. But really, like I said, learning as much as we could those few weeks when we were doing that, just kind of getting a taste of it.”
When you threw that touchdown pass to Vernon last weekend, is that about as hard as you can throw a ball? I mean, you really gunned it.
“Obviously I knew I had to get the ball up and down. I don’t know. I don’t know if I could throw the ball harder. I was in the middle of a game, so I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a ball in the middle of a game as hard as I can. I think you kind of lose accuracy when you do that a little bit. So, obviously it was a ball and I knew I kind of had to fit in there.”
Giants are loose. Giants are hot. Giants are on the road. Now, suddenly the Niners are the team that has something to lose. The Giants have nothing to lose. The Giants have nothing to lose. They lose, this is all right. You haven’t had that mid-span. You’ve gone from under to suddenly the king of the—how are you maintaining your cool? You have a lot to lose, the Giants don’t. How do you stay above that?
“I guess I feel like at this point in the game with four teams left, there’s no underdog, there’s no favorite. We’ve all got the same amount to lose. We’re all fighting for a trip to the Super Bowl. To say that anyone should win these games, I think, is kidding themselves. Look at last week, I think everybody thought the road was going to go through Lambeau. I think everybody assumed the NFC Championship game was going to get played there and look what happens. These teams at this point, everybody’s as good as each other and it’s all going to come down to how you execute on that day. We’re all capable of beating each other that’s for sure.”
Alex, have you heard from any former 49ers in the last couple days, and also how much do you know about the long playoff rivalry with the New York Giants?
“I haven’t heard much from ex-Niners. Just getting ready for the game and preparing. Don’t have time to do much stuff like that. I had to do an interview with [former 49ers QB] Steve Young. That’s about as close as I got, I guess, to talking to some ex-players. As far as the rivalry, I guess no, I’m not real familiar with it.”
You want your play to speak for yourself, but is it fair to say that you personally are playing with a chip on your shoulder and there’s some redemption just in how this season has gone?
“I don’t know. I guess I kind of feel like this whole team maybe is playing like that, if you want to call it that. I don’t know how many wins we were picked to have at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t many. Certainly, I don’t know where we were picked to come in the division, all of that. Not a lot of people were in our corner. It was just us here working. It’s down to the last four here with the chance to go to the Super Bowl this Sunday. That’s how we want it. Obviously there are a few more people around, but I don’t think it’s changed the mindset in the locker room.”
Before your touchdown run on Saturday, there was a penalty and it went from third and two to the third and eight, was that call changed? Were you hoping it would be changed? Did you want it to be changed?
“Yeah, you basically went from third and short, short-yardage call to all of a sudden, you’re third and seven and eight. Totally different play call.”
What was the original call?
“Couldn’t tell you.”