Smith makes bold statement during 'Camp Alex'

In his six years with the 49ers, Alex Smith never has made a bolder statement than during the past four days. In his multi-faceted role as organizer/leader and coach/QB/frontman/peacemaker at the workout sessions affectionately dubbed "Camp Alex" by several of his teammates, Smith has made it clear he is determined to become the QB/leader in 2011 that he hasn't quite lived up to be so far.

That isn't exactly something new from what we've heard from Smith since the 49ers bet their future on him six years ago when the team made Smith the No. 1 overall selection in the 2005 NFL draft. But by his actions and results during four days of lockout-inspired workouts this week at San Jose State University, Smith has shown everybody how serious he is about taking one more – and, undoubtedly, final – shot at being San Francisco's starting quarterback and successfully handling everything that goes along with that pivotal job.

Of course, Smith knows all the determination, work and leadership he has displayed over the past week won't mean anything if he doesn't get it done on the field once the 49ers and the rest of the NFL actually start playing football again.

"I love this game and I have more to prove than ever," Smith said. "I know I can play this game at a high level, and I haven't done it consistently yet. I'm determined to do so. I'm tired of losing, watching other people play in January and February."

And all this from a guy who, technically, isn't even a 49er as of today. Smith is an unrestricted free agent who doesn't currently have a contract with the team. But Smith left no question he'll be signing a deal from the 49ers that's waiting on the table once the lockout is over and he is able to do so.

"Obviously, I think this speaks for itself," Smith said. "Anybody who wants to read between the lines… I mean, I put on the training camp. We all did this, but I had a lot of hand in it. I'm here. I have a playbook. There's a lot to be said about that."

And there's a lot to be said about Smith's new role with the team, which in several ways sounds just like his old role with the team. Smith is returning to the 49ers this year to unequivocally be their starting quarterback as of now, and then let the chips fall where they may as the future develops.

"Absolutely. No question," Smith said. "I couldn't put (why) in words, but that's why I'm doing this (camp). I don't put in all this time, I don't sacrifice all this stuff to not be that. That's the drive in me that I've had and I will continue to have."

That drive made Smith look almost supernatural this week, as far as this four-day session is concerned.

He was a man of many hats: first, organizing the workouts to begin with, then contacting almost all the dozens of players who ultimately attended; teaching teammates the playbook in a classroom setting before they hit the field; coaching them up on the field during workouts; taking a front role in running the offense during workouts; and even playing the role of security guard by attempting to keep media from watching the opening day of workouts Monday.

And after it all was over, Smith also stepped to the plate to downplay any controversy that developed during "Camp Alex."

That, of course, would have to do with wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who made several cryptic comments regarding Smith and Smith's role with the team upon Crabtree's arrival at the sessions Monday. But Smith stood up for Crabtree on Thursday and said there is no problem between the two men whatsoever. He also defended Crabtree for not taking part in on-field workouts the final three days because of Crabtree's history of foot injuries.

"A lot's been made of hims and mine relationship," Smith said. "Things have come out in the paper and I think that we both wish we could take (them) back. I know I feel that way. This is something I really feel has been blown out of proportion. (Crabtree) has done all the right things. I'm a free agent, not even on the roster. For him to be confused as to the quarterback situation isn't the strangest thing in the world. I'm sure there's a lot of other people out there confused. As far as off the field, he and I have always got along from Day 1."

It's on the field, Smith was quick to agree, that their relationship needs to improve. Smith had a paltry 55.4 quarterback rating last season during plays in which he threw passes intended for Crabtree.

"Unhappy would be an understatement for our play last year," Smith said. "He and I rely so much on each other. No question, both of us are unhappy about it. We'd be the first to tell you that. We both have to play better."

To be sure, Smith's image received an upgrade after the way he conducted himself this week, and that perception also has taken hold among his teammates, who as a whole appear pleased to have Smith returning as their quarterback, despite the turmoil and losing records that have taken place in Smith's first several go-arounds in that role.

And, boy, is he eager to please them and the rest of a Niner Nation that has just about run out of patience with Alex Smith, the quarterback.

"We had a great week, a great turnout," Smith said. "Guys came out, they were into it, they were hungry and soaking up what we were putting into it. We're behind the 8-ball right now, at a clear disadvantage to the (more-established) teams that have things in place. There's a real motivation to catch up as much as possible. I was trying to do what's best for the team, and I think we needed this. It was a great start for us."

Not to mention, perhaps, yet another new start for Smith.


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