NEW ORLEANS -- Wave after wave they came at 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, as unrelenting as the Baltimore Ravens' defense.
Smith stood tall amid the crush of reporters Tuesday at media day at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, while some 30 yards away, Colin Kaepernick sat at an elevated podium reserved for 14 players deemed to be the 49ers' biggest stories.
Smith was tantalizingly close to being put on a pedestal a year ago until the 49ers lost to the New York Giants in overtime. He lost his job to Kaepernick after a concussion.
When it was suggested to Smith that perhaps he should wish five interceptions upon Kaepernick in Super Bowl XLVII, he bristled.
"Why do you play football?" Smith said. "Why do
Coach Jim Harbaugh went so far as to suggest Monday that Smith was doing most of the coaching when it comes to Kaepernick.
"I don't know about any of that," Smith said. "We've got a great quarterback room. It's just a great environment. Everybody can speak freely in there. We all have a lot of insight."
It has been a reversal or roles for Smith, who ascended to the starting position at Utah when quarterback Brett Elliott broke his wrist in 2003.
Smith took over the starting job, eventually becoming a finalist for the
"I played well those three weeks, he didn't get to come back," Smith said. "I respected the way he handled it back then. I know we were able to remain close through that, and it was hard for him."