Smith must wait to sign with 49ers after all

Quarterback Alex Smith said he wouldn't waste any time in signing his one-year contract with the 49ers as a free agent. But the team's presumed starting quarterback might end up missing a training camp practice – or two – nonetheless even after he does sign that contract, meaning someone else likely will be taking the first-team snaps when the Niners begin summer practices Friday.

That's because Smith, an unrestricted free agent, won't be able to sign his contract until 3 p.m. Friday at the earliest. ESPN reported Tuesday that Smith has already agreed to terms on that deal, a one-year pact that will pay him $5 million.

The 49ers are scheduled to open training camp on Thursday and have their first on-field practice slated for Friday.

Furthermore, it is believed that any free agent the team signs, even if it's one of their own like Smith, will not be able to take part in training camp until the players recertify as a union. That could happen later this week. The deadline for recertification is Aug. 4.

That raises a scenario by which the two other quarterbacks on the roster, veteran David Carr and rookie Colin Kaepernick, could get a head start on Smith in practice.

Still, Smith knows the offense better than any other 49er at this point. During a one-day lockout window on April 29 during which coaches could talk to players, new head coach Jim Harbaugh and his assistants loaded up Smith with teaching material. Smith then used that material to conduct two four-day minicamps with offensive players in June.

Those sessions solidified Smith's commitment to returning to the 49ers, and also established the six-year veteran as a clear leader among his teammates. Smith reinforced his commitment to the 49ers on Monday as the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement were being resolved.

"My mind is made up," Smith said. "It's been made up a long time. I'm not going to wait for anything. I'm just waiting for that opportunity (to sign a contract). I'm sure it will be pretty quick. I'm sure it'll move fast. It's pretty well set in stone, I think."

The 49ers' top priority will be teaching players both new offensive and defensive systems.

Harbaugh said that he initially included two-a-day sessions in his training-camp plan to accelerate the learning process, but had to adjust when the new CBA eliminated double days.

"Obviously, those were things that were important to the players and there are new rules that go into effect this training camp," he said. "And we're going to honor that. We're going to play by the rules. So a lot of thinking is, how best to manage the time we have. And it will really come down to that."

Harbaugh said that he was eager to sit down with Smith – which he is permitted to do this week – and find out exactly how much of the offense he was able to install during the June workouts at San Jose State University's Spartan Stadium.

"I was excited to see what was going on," Harbaugh said. "That the players were taking the initiative and organizing practices and workouts. Hopefully, that bodes well for us, and everybody who participated in those workouts will have a leg up. I hope that's the case."

Even if Smith will have to wait to keep his leg up until at least Friday.

But Smith will be on the field soon enough, and he said the key was that the 49ers are indeed starting training camp on time without losing any more preparation time to the lockout.

"I think it's a huge deal," Smith said. "In my head, if we can get a full training camp, I thought that would be a big help, knowing that it was looking like we weren't going to get OTAs and minicamps. I was really hopeful that if we could get a full training camp, then that was the best scenario."

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