SANTA CLARA -- Safety Roman Harper insisted the New Orleans Saints' preparations aren't going haywire while the 49ers weigh whether to start Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick at quarterback Sunday at the Superdome.

"Both of these guys have had success the last few weeks in this offense, so you don't really prepare differently for either one," Harper said Wednesday on a media conference call.

Although Harper noted that they're "two different bodies," he described both quarterbacks as athletic, strong-armed right-handers who have proved formidable of late.

In their last encounter, Harper failed to break up Smith's last-minute touchdown pass to Vernon Davis in the 49ers' 36-32, divisional-playoff win last season at Candlestick Park. Harper needed only to watch the start of Monday night's game, a 32-7 49ers win over the Chicago Bears, to describe Kaepernick's starting debut as "amazing."

"He was absolutely phenomenal," Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said of Kaepernick. "He played like he was a five-year vet. The No. 1 thing was the tempo. And you saw the team's confidence in him grow as the game went on."

Vitt also noted Smith's and Kaepernick's similarities in terms of their mobility, decision making and ball-protection ability.


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  • Linebacker Aldon Smith said "it means a lot" to have won his first career NFC Defensive Player of the Week honor Wednesday. Smith's 5½ sacks raised his season total to a league-leading 15. A Nov. 11 shoulder injury didn't limit him Monday nor in Wednesday's practice.

  • Coach Jim Harbaugh met with doctors Tuesday for a follow-up evaluation related to last Thursday's cardioversion procedure on his irregular heartbeat. "I believe we've got that one licked," said Harbaugh, who's stopped his daily habits of chewing tobacco and drinking Diet Coke.

  • Limited in 49ers practice were Alex Smith (concussion), safety Dashon Goldson (ribs, calf) and cornerbacks Tarell Brown (knee) and Chris Culliver (shoulder).

  • Among those on the injury report but full participants at practice: wide receiver Randy Moss (finger), running back Frank Gore (wrist, ribs), safety C.J. Spillman (finger) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder).

  • Willis was among those Harbaugh awarded a ceremonial game ball. "Patrick made big plays when he was stressed in the defense, when he was the challenged player," Harbaugh said. "He had the tough coverage on (Matt) Forte and the run assignment at the same time. He just made a lot of really good, big plays."

  • Guard Chilo Rachal left the Bears after getting upset over being demoted, according to the Chicago Tribune. Rachal, who played the previous four seasons with the 49ers, has five days to report back to the club or he'll be ineligible to play again this season.

  • Harbaugh didn't agree with Cal's firing of coach Jeff Tedford: "He's a great guy and a great coach, and he did a phenomenal job building that program. I think it's a mistake. Who are you going to find that's better than Jeff Tedford? He's as good as a coach as you're going to find."

    Asked if 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman deserves consideration at Cal, Harbaugh replied: "Any team or program would be lucky to have Greg Roman as a head coach."

    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.