SANTA CLARA -- Justin Smith's 2011 season earned him three team awards, All-Pro nods at two defensive-line positions and a Pro Bowl berth.

But he wasn't one of the 49ers' captains.

He is now.

After Saturday's practice, teammates selected Smith and quarterback Alex Smith to serve alongside last season's incumbent captains, running back Frank Gore and linebacker Patrick Willis.

"Anytime you're named by your teammates, it's always cool," said Smith, noting that his acceptance speech was "short and sweet."

Ray McDonald spilled the beans on what his fellow defensive tackle told the team: "Go out there and kick butt. Kick butt every play and that will take care of everything else."

Smith plans to do just that when the 49ers open the regular season next Sunday in Green Bay, where he'll start his 172nd consecutive game, the fifth-longest streak among active players.

Last season's Packers possessed the league's highest-scoring offense and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Their offensive line is suspect, however, and Smith has been watching film "for a while" to find an edge.

"We know they'll give us some wrinkles," Smith said. "We're ready to roll. We're ready to get up there and do our thing."

Smith did his "thing" so well in last season's run to the NFC title game that a slew of honors followed. He won the 49ers' Len Eschmont, Bill Walsh and Matt Hazeltine awards for exemplary play. The Associated Press named him first-team All-Pro at defensive tackle and second-team at defensive end.


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So how does he follow coach Jim Harbaugh's teamwide credo to "get better every day" after 11 rock-solid seasons?

"He's honed up on all his skills," McDonald said. "He's smart and works hard. He's always passionate. To say he's picked it up because we lost that (NFC Championship) game) wouldn't do him justice, because he's always like that."

Harbaugh attempted to give Smith an all-encompassing compliment by simply defining him as, "a football player," which Harbaugh said is what any "true competitor" would want to be known as.

Smith spent his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before coming in 2008 to the 49ers. He called last season's success fun, adding: "Let's carry that over, handle our business and win some more."

  • Justin Smith has been a 49ers captain before, and so has Alex Smith, who half-jokingly noted "it comes and goes." Alex Smith was designated a captain two years ago by then-coach Mike Singletary.

  • Scott Tolzien said he exchanged text messages Friday night with Josh Johnson, who was among the 21 players cut after failing to unseat Tolzien as the No. 3 quarterback. Said Tolzien: "I really think a lot of him as a quarterback and person. Hopefully he gets a great opportunity and I feel confident he'll make the most of that."

    What gave Tolzien the edge? Harbaugh declined to say, other than to call the six-month competition a "dead heat."

  • Blue, mechanic-like shirts with personalized patches were given to all players, as was the case last season.

    "I might bust it out today. It smells so good," said running back Anthony Dixon, who made the roster for a third year and plans to become a special-teams catalyst.

    Dixon said each player also received a black, 49ers-embossed wallet, with a list of the team's five goals written inside it.

  • Tight end Garrett Celek waited in his hotel room with his parents for a phone call that never came Friday night, a call that would have told him he'd been cut. Instead, Celek became the only undrafted rookie to make the 53-man roster.

    "The whole time, I was nervous," said Celek, who was a blocking-oriented tight end at Michigan State.

    Celek's brother Brent plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. "He was super excited for me and guided me through the whole process."

  • Asked if linebacker Parys Haralson will be available for the season opener after remaining out of practice for undisclosed reasons, Harbaugh said: "We'll see." The only other two outside linebackers on the roster are starters Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith.

  • Also missing from Saturday's practice were running back Brandon Jacobs (left knee) and wide receivers Ted Ginn Jr. (right ankle) and Mario Manningham, who left the team a week ago after his grandfather's death.

  • Defensive end/tight end Demarcus Dobbs said his left leg is much improved and that he should be available for the season opener.

  • All eight players signed to the practice squad Saturday had been released Friday: wide receiver Nathan Palmer, safety Michael Thomas, defensive tackles Tony Jerod-Eddie and Matthew Masifilo, linebackers Cam Johnson and Michael Wilhoite and offensive tackles Al Netter and Kenny Wiggins.

  • Claimed off waivers were tight end Konrad Reuland (New York Jets) and offensive lineman Mike Person (Indianapolis Colts). Two former 49ers, both Stanford products, joined practice squads: wide receiver Chris Owusu (Chargers) and center Chase Beeler (Eagles).

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.