Alex Smith has been given plenty of labels during his six-year career.
Bust and disappointment? Those are a few that are appropriate for this blog.
Today, however, the 49ers quarterback was given a slightly more lofty title: Captain.
Smith was the lone addition to the 49ers roster of leaders, which includes Justin Smith, Takeo Spikes, Patrick Willis, Vernon Davis and Eric Heitmann.
The vote was unanimous. Mike Singletary: 1. The players: No vote.
Singletary said it was impossible to ignore Smith’s commitment during the offseason.
“You know he’s out here when no one was out here,” Singletary said. “He was the guy that got the receivers together and threw to them, and changed his schedule around to meet with some other receivers. So, he was not just doing it once a day, he was doing it twice a day, as well as in the classroom. He was wearing (offensive coordinator) Jimmy Raye and (quarterbacks coach) Mike Johnson out all offseason.”
Smith, of course, has been criticized for his on-field performance during his career, but his work ethic has never been questioned. Smith said he didn’t work harder this past offseason.
He was simply able to focus more of his energies on his teammates because he wasn’t up to eyeballs in a new playbook. Smith (all together now) had five different offensive coordinators in his first five seasons.
“In years past, sometimes you’re more focused on yourself, just trying to forget what you learned the year before and learn something new, start over,” Smith said. “What I’m saying is the more stability we had this offseason I think created an atmosphere at least for me to do more of that stuff.”
• Vernon Davis has obviously matured since the Great Locker Room Banishment, but it’s probably safe to say the outspoken tight end still requires more attention than most.
After last year’s breakout season, Davis will no doubt attract more coverage this season. It could provide opportunities for other pass-catchers. And it could have Davis expressing his frustration, perhaps loudly, after a few 2-catch, 22-yard days.
It’s clear Singletary has anticipated such a scenario. And he’s done his best to make sure the Great Locker Room Banishment II won’t be coming to sideline near you.
“Conversations with Vernon this offseason were basically to grow into what he can become mentally,” Singletary said. “Being able to handle it, being able to deal with it and at the same time, being able to understand that there are other receivers, and that if you don’t touch the ball as many times as you would like, to be aware that there are some other guys on the team, and just be understanding of that fact. We all have to be selfless.”
It doesn’t require too much detective work to read between those lines.
• If newly signed third-string QB Troy Smith ever sees the field, he’ll likely be lined up behind center. Smith, the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, would seem to be a strong candidate to run the Wildcat. But don’t hold your breath.
“You know, it’s possible at some point and time, but right now — the time to do that is in OTA’s and training camp,” Singletary said.
• Alex Smith said he entered the season confident he would be the starting quarterback. But he understood there were no guarantees. “I’m sure (Matt) Leinart thought the same thing,” he said of the Cardinals’ presumptive starter who was released over the weekend. Leinart has signed with the Texans.
• LB Diyral Briggs was limited in practice after being diagnosed with a concussion after last week’s final preseason game against San Diego. Briggs was held out of contact drills. CB Will James (ankle), LB Ahmad Brooks (lacerated kidney), C Eric Heitmann (fibula), WR Kyle Williams (toe) will not play in Sunday’s season opener at Seattle. Singletary said RB Brian Westbrook (hamstring) would play.
• Rookie tight end Nate Byham, a sixth-round draft pick, admitted he was sweating out final cuts. And now that he’s earned a spot on the 53-man roster, he wants to ensure he hangs around. Byham increasingly saw time at fullback in the latter stages of training camp, a position he hadn’t played since his freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh.
Byham, who expects to play plenty on special teams, acknowledged he’ll do anything to earn playing time.
“That’s why I embraced it when they gave me the opportunity and told me they wanted me to start learning some (fullback),” Byham said. “I took the opportunity: I’m gonna learn both positions. I’m gonna be able to do more for the team. Especially something like that, it just helps out the roster. It’s like you’ve got guys that can play both positions.”