Smith praises former backup

McClatchy news servicesJanuary 24, 2013 

The man who lost his job to Colin Kaepernick is among those most impressed by what Kaepernick has accomplished since taking over as the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback.

And it’s not Kaepernick’s foot speed or the zip on his passes that have been most striking on the way to the Super Bowl, Alex Smith said Wednesday.

“It’s the lack of young mistakes that has really jumped out at me,” Smith said. “Most young guys come in … yeah, they show flashes, and they think they can play good at times. But then they also seem to have those young moments as well, you know, rookie moments and kind of boneheaded things.

“And he hasn’t done it. He’s played good ball. He’s really played patient and played smart.”

Smith was having the best season of his career, had a 104.1 passer rating and had led the 49ers to a 6-2 record when he suffered a concussion Nov. 11. Kaepernick had a stunningly successful starting debut the following week against Chicago, and the week after that, coach Jim Harbaugh made the critical — and controversial — decision to stick with Kaepernick over a healthy Smith.

As the backup, Smith has given tips to Kaepernick and mimicked the opponent’s quarterback in practice. Smith said he’ll prepare for the Super Bowl as a starter in case Kaepernick gets injured, and he’ll also take snaps in practice in the role of Baltimore Ravens starter Joe Flacco.

“I say hats off to (Smith), because he could have been walking around here with his head down being a pain,” Niners center Jonathan Goodwin said. “But he hasn’t. He’s been Alex. He’s been great and supportive of Kap. And that says a lot about Alex as a person.”

Smith, who came within overtime of leading the 49ers into the Super Bowl last year, admitted he had mixed emotions about watching Kaepernick reach the big game this year.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bittersweet,” Smith said. “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.

“But at the same time, it is a team sport, and these are my teammates. 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.”

SUPER BOWL BITS

The 49ers will be the first team to touch down in New Orleans for the Super Bowl when the NFC champions arrive Sunday night. The Baltimore Ravens are set to show up Monday. The game is Sunday, Feb. 3. … San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks (shoulder) and tight end Garrett Celek (foot) did not practice.

EXTRA POINTS

The NFL fined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady $10,000 for kicking Ravens safety Ed Reed during Sunday’s AFC Championship game. Near the end of the second quarter, Brady slid at the end of a 3-yard run. In the process, he raised his right leg and kicked Reed in the thigh. … Running back Frank Gore of the 49ers was fined $10,500 by the NFL after he wore his socks too low in Sunday’s NFC Championship game. It was his second uniform violation this season. … The five finalists for the Byron “Whizzer” White Award presented by the NFL Players’ Association were named: Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, Browns tight end Benjamin Watson and Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch. The award recognizes players for their community service. … The Raiders hired Tony Sparano as an assistant head coach who will work with the offensive line. He is a former head coach of the Dolphins.

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