SANTA CLARA – After practice, three of the 49ers quarterbacks – Alex Smith, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien – had a long discussion in the weight-lifting tent adjacent to the practice field as they did bicep curls. Occasionally Smith would set down his weights, face the other quarterbacks and elucidate a point with his hands – pantomiming what looked like routes. When Smith did this, Tolzien and Johnson sat, listened and asked questions.
When they finished up, Tolzien walked over to reporters and answered questions about his discussions with the other Niner quarterbacks and the improvements he’s made to his game this offseason.
He also gave a great Aldon Smith story which you can read at the end of the interview. It’s about his first impression of Smith from his preseason game against the Niners last season when Tolzien played for the San Diego Chargers.
Q: I noticed you were having a discussion with Josh and Alex a few minutes ago while you guys were lifting. Could you share what you guys were talking about?
TOLZIEN: A lot of times we’re discussing plays from the practice: “What was your thought on this play, or what was the look we were getting?” We’re all professionals and we’re all ultimately trying to learn from each other, because some rep that Alex had, shoot, I may have that same rep tomorrow, so I want to learn from what he saw so I can maximize my rep.
Q: The Niners signed Josh Johnson, and now the team has four quarterbacks. How do you feel about your position with the team and where you career is going?
TOLZIEN: You always think of the team first, and shoot, it’s a good thing to have four capable quarterbacks. These are the guys you’re competing against, but at the same time you’re still trying to learn from their reps even if they’re not your reps, or just from them – the way that they’re reading stuff. We’re all in this together and we all want the same thing – to move our way up the depth chart – but at the same time I think we can all get better from learning from one another.
Q: Have you thought about how the preseason reps will be split up between four quarterbacks?
TOLZIEN: Harbaugh always says, “Work and don’t worry.” That’s the way I’m trying to approach it. That’s the best way to approach it. I was in the same position in college, and it doesn’t do you any good to measure yourself against the other guys on a day-to-day basis. You’ve got to be your own toughest critic, and really it’s on your shoulders for you to be accountable, control what you can control and truthfully trying to get better everyday – not just saying it, doing it.
Q: What was the situation in Wisconsin?
TOLZIEN: I redshirted my first year. Going into my fourth year I was slated as the No. 3 on the depth chart going into fall camp. I ended up working my way up to the starting position and starting for two years.
Q: Who was ahead of you at the time?
TOLZIEN: A couple guys. There was Dustin Sherer, Curt Phillips, those were the two guys who were ahead of me, and then we had some young talent that was below me as well.
Q: What do you think is the best attribute you bring to this team?
TOLZIEN: Trying to bring it every day. As a team, that’s when all the pieces come together, if everyone collaboratively is pushing each other, from a positional standpoint, to the offense pushing the defense, to everything in between. I need to know my part and to control what I can control. At the end of the day you don’t want to have any regrets.
Q: Do you feel like you’ve progressed the way you wanted to in this offseason program?
TOLZIEN: I think there are a lot of days where, gosh, I wish I could have had this or that – The Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda Game – but I think in some ways that’s good to be critical on yourself because at the end of the OTAs when I’m looking back I can say, “Although I had these mistakes here and there and whatnot, overall I think it was a pretty good effort.”
Q: When you played that preseason game against the Niners last year, do you remember Aldon Smith?
TOLZIEN: Yeah, he was just wreaking havoc. That’s one of the things that sticks out about that game to me. I mean shoot, it showed during the season, too. Luckily he’s on my side now and I don’t have to worry about that. I just remember him ripping through. I remember midway through the game everyone on our sideline going, “Who is this guy? This No. 99 is pretty talented.” It turns out he is.