Alex Smith finds himself in familiar territory: Unsure if he's still the 49ers quarterback. Smith spoke with reporters Wednesday for the first time in a week, a span in which post-concussion symptoms returned and thus forced Colin Kaepernick into Smith's role as the 49ers' winning quarterback.
Here is what Smith had to say (transcript courtesy of colleague Tim Kawakami):
Q: How are you feeling right now—as far as getting cleared to play?
SMITH: Still in the process of being cleared to go back out and practice. Going to be out there in the (black) jersey and just start the process again, kind of continue.
Q: Do you expect to be cleared?
SMITH: I feel good, I feel really good. So yeah, I'm kind of expecting things to go really well. Still those steps to go through, though.
Q: But a week ago you said you felt good then, too.
SMITH: Yeah, I felt good. Just didn't work out, didn't get cleared. But feeling better, definitely feeling better.
Q: Did you experience symptoms over the weekend?
SMITH: You know, I tried to push it and went out and practiced and, you know, it just wasn't right. And doctors didn't end up clearing me.
Q: Was it a headache?
SMITH: I'm not going to get into the symptoms that were going on. Just tried to push it early in the week and still some lingering things.
Q: Was the final hurdle getting to a contact practice?
SMITH: I know a big deal has been made of
Q: It never got to that point last week?
SMITH: No, we never did that, no.
Q: Harbaugh just said it could be a week-to-week decision or maybe even two QBs in a game... Your reaction?
SMITH: Any time the next guy steps up and plays well, it's a good thing for the team. Let's not get this wrong. If this were any other position, it's a great thing. Now, does it complicate things for me and Colin, I mean, yeah. The quarterback position gets a lot of attention. A lot's going to get written and talked about, this guy or that. There's only one ball. There's only one guy who can be under center. It's part of the deal. But this is a good thing for this team. This is a good problem. Those are decisions for Coach. It's his position. We just play football.
Q: Do you think you're competing with Kaepernick for the job now?
SMITH: I feel like I'm trying to get back healthy and go out there and prove that I can play and part of that it just getting cleared. That's kind of where I'm at right now.
Q: You're having the best statistical season of your career. Would you expect to be the starter when you're healthy?
SMITH: I guess you don't expect anything. I mean, this is the nature of the game. Next guy steps up and plays well, that's part of the deal in this game. Competition is part of it as well. So don't know what's going to happen.
Q: Were you surprised Harbaugh left this topic open on Monday and then again today?
SMITH: No. Once again, that's his call. Colin played great, stepped up and played really well. On a big stage vs. a good defense. Like I said, it comes with the territory.
Q: You said it complicates things with you and Colin? How has that been?
SMITH: Just all this stuff. He and I have talked quite a few times since then. In my opinion, if you can't be happy for your teammate's success you're playing the wrong sport—go play tennis or golf or something. That's ridiculous, I think. That doesn't belong in team sports, in my opinion. So, like I said, it's the quarterback position. It gets a lot of attention. We're going to get talked about. But it's important that it doesn't come in here.
Q: The 49ers used a high pick to draft Kaepernick and obviously like him a lot. Did you sort of expect something like this might be coming?
SMITH: He's a good player, yeah. I knew what he was potentially capable of, for sure. I mean, he's shown it out here on the practice field, he's shown it in the preseason, he's shown it when he's gotten his opportunities. Yeah, that's always the case—high draft pick or not. Ultimately the decision came down to me and my health and was I OK. Didn't feel like it was something to tough through, can't really tough out something like that. Ultimately the doctors didn't clear me.
Q: How important is it for a QB to know during the week that he's going to be the starter and the dividing of practice?
SMITH: Of reps? The reps are obviously important through the week. I don't think you live and die by them by any means. But yeah, it's a part of the deal. We've always done a good job here of splitting reps up throughout the week, as far as starter and back-up goes. It's part of it. We'll see how it goes this week.
Q: Can you reflect on that Saints playoff game—for both teams, is there heightened significance to this game?
SMITH: Yeah, no question, they're a hot team, been playing really well the last few weeks, they're on a roll. They get a little chance at revenge, get us back in their place. I think everybody that watched that game remembers it. And certainly us that took part in it—I know that. It was a physical game, it was back and forth, some talking going on out there on the field. I'm sure it's in the back of their heads, I'm sure they remember it and the chance to get us on their turf.
Q: They've probably been looking forward to this game for a while.
SMITH: Yeah, I knew when the schedule came out it was something I looked at, when we were playing them, and down there at their place. So I'm sure it was the same for them.
Q: At the end of 2010, you were in and out of the line-up withTroySmith...
Q: Do you look back on that and maybe that helps you in this situation?
SMITH: Yeah, I've been in a few of these, you know? And they're all different. You know, I think the great thing is obviously the character of this locker room. We've got great character in the quarterback room, too. Chance to really kind of be different and set a great example for the team—us. It's not easy, it can be complicated, but this is a good problem for the 49ers, it's a good problem for us as a team. It's not a bad thing. There's only one ball, though. That's what makes it tough, so we'll see how it goes.
Q: Were there things that Colin did Monday that were especially impressive to you?
SMITH: I think just going out there and, for me, on a big stage, good defense that really has kind of over-powered some offenses the weeks prior, just going out there and attacking was the biggest thing for a young quarterback, sometimes. To get out there and to get timid or not to be aggressive. For him to get out there and really cut it loose, it was a good thing to see.