SANTA CLARA -- Quarterback Alex Smith came one play or so away from directing the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season. This season, they reached the big game with Smith playing a backup role.
"I would be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet," Smith said Wednesday. "Yeah, I want to be out there. It's what you work for coming into the season. That was the mindset. That was the goal for me."
Smith fell short of his goal as a result of a concussion he suffered against the St. Louis Rams in the ninth regular-season game. Coach Jim Harbaugh opted to stick with second-year player Colin Kaepernick once Smith recovered well enough to resume playing.
If Smith is bitter about how things played out, he isn't letting on. In keeping with his professional approach, he is going about his business as the backup and supporting Kaepernick and his teammates.
"It's the nature of sports," Smith said. "He got an opportunity, stepped up and made the most of it. That's the deal. That's how I got my start in college. It was no different. The guy in front of me got hurt. That's how I got my first start. It's just the nature of team sports."
Smith keeps things in perspective by viewing things through the lens of overall perspective.
"It is a team sport and these are my teammates," Smith said. "You go through so much together, especially these guys who have been here for a chunk of time. If you can't be happy, there's something wrong with you."
As for Kaepernick, Smith said he isn't surprised by how well he has played since he took the reins. He is impressed by just about everything Kaepernick does.
"No question, out there you see the playmaking ability on the practice field," Smith said. "For sure. You saw it in preseason. The thing I'm shocked by is the consistency. He hasn't done the thing that a lot of quarterbacks do, which is lose the game for a team. He's done a great job of preparing."