Smith, 49ers start to repair relationship (Phil Barber news story)

Phil Barber, the great staff writer for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, wrote his Thursday news story on Alex Smith’s relationship with the Niners, and I want to pass it on to you. Enjoy.

Told he was “our guy” from the start of free agency, only to find there was a different guy who looked even more attractive, another NFL quarterback might have sounded bitter. Or chippy. Or even defiant.

But Alex Smith, the QB who seems to give as many fresh chances as he gets, was the epitome of grace and solidarity on a conference call with Bay Area reporters Wednesday, taking the first public step in repairing his potentially fractured relationship with the 49ers.

“I was not offended at all,” Smith said, referring to his team’s ardent pursuit of a certain four-time league MVP last week. “I would have relished the opportunity to compete for the starting job with Peyton Manning.”

As it is, Smith probably won’t have to genuinely compete with anyone to be the 49ers’ starting quarterback in 2012. He can pick up where he left off – guiding his team to an overtime loss to the New York Giants in the 2011 NFC championship game, with young thrower Colin Kaepernick firmly positioned as his backup.

Finally, there is resolution to a situation that seemed cut and dried a month ago, then suddenly erupted into full soap-opera drama when the 49ers unexpectedly jumped into the Manning Derby. Coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman flew to North Carolina to watch Manning work out at Duke University – an overture reportedly initiated by Manning – and the Niners soon were cast as one of three teams in the hunt, along with the Broncos and Titans.

That development apparently prompted Smith, who played last season on a one-year deal, to explore his own free-agent options. He visited the Miami Dolphins over the weekend, and supposedly even began discussing contract language.

Were those discussions serious?

“It seemed serious at the time, but this was the plan all along,” Smith said. “Get back here and get it done.”

As we all know by now, Manning chose the Broncos, Miami signed David Garrard to compete with Matt Moore at quarterback, and Smith’s leverage was reduced to almost nothing. He signed a three-year pact at 49ers team headquarters Wednesday. It had long been reported that the team was offering Smith $10 million guaranteed money. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the signed contract calls for $16.5 million guaranteed.

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