Notebook: Alex still playing the good soldier

Alex Smith ran off the field at Candlestick Park two weeks ago to a standing ovation and cheers from the sellout crowd, not much different from the reception last January when he took the 49ers oh so close to a Super Bowl. Now relegated to a backup role with the NFC champions, Smith's trip to the Big Easy this week leading up to Sunday's Super Bowl against Baltimore is hardly how he envisioned it.

This used to be his team. Now, he plays Joe Flacco in practice.

Smith expected to be under center chasing the franchise's sixth championship, not watching strong-armed second-year pro Colin Kaepernick direct the offense against Ravens star Ray Lewis and Co.

''I think a lot's being made of that. For one, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a little bittersweet,'' Smith said. ''Yeah, I want to be out there. That's what you work for. Coming into the season, that's what I was thinking about. That was the mindset for me; that was the goal for me. At the same time, it is a team sport and these are all my teammates.''

As he has done during each such trying time in an up-and-down career full of them, Smith has handled the change with class and the shared team-first attitude that is a big reason his club made it this far.

And Smith, the No. 1 pick from the 2005 draft out of Utah, left no doubt that he would appreciate and relish the rare opportunity before him.

''Absolutely, yes, very much so,'' Smith said of enjoying this experience despite the high-profile, midseason demotion.

Smith acknowledged when he lost the job to Kaepernick back in November that he had done nothing wrong but get hurt. Not only had he completed 26 of his previous 28 passes – 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and a 157.1 passer rating in a Monday Night Football win at Arizona on Oct. 29 – but Smith earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors after that victory.

He then sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. He sat out the next game as Kaepernick dazzled in his debut as an NFL starter, beating the Bears handily at home on Monday Night Football.

After that, coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with the ''hot hand,'' as he regularly put it, while complicating matters by still referring to Smith as a starter.

The eighth-year quarterback is already fielding his fair share of questions about how it feels not being on the field for the biggest moment in a player's career.

''If you can't be happy for them, then something's wrong with you,'' Smith said of his teammates.

Smith revealed last week that he actually got his shot in college when the starter went down injured. At Utah in 2003, starter Brett Elliott broke his wrist on the last play of the game in the second week of the season. Smith took over, and Elliott wound up transferring to Division III Linfield College.

So how could Smith possibly be angry at Kaepernick?

''It'd be pretty hypocritical to be upset about it,'' Smith said. ''It's the nature of sports. He got an opportunity, stepped up and made the most of it.''

Smith made a few things clear: No, his confidence isn't shaken, and, no, he hasn't thought about what's next – where he might end up, or as a starter or a No. 2. When the 49ers faced Arizona to end the season, Smith was asked if he looked at his brief playing time as an audition to be the Cardinals' QB for 2013.

Not with unfinished business this season.

''He's a very classy guy,'' said Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, in Smith's draft class.

San Francisco lost to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants 20-17 in overtime of the NFC title game last January. That fueled everybody, the 28-year-old Smith included.

Smith tossed a perfect 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis with 9 seconds remaining as the Niners stunned Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in the divisional playoffs last year.

Smith, once booed by the home crowd as he struggled to find a groove for an ever-changing list of offensive coordinators, finally shined last season and produced a career year while thriving under the guidance of former NFL quarterback Harbaugh.

It was Smith, unsigned at the time, who organized San Francisco's summer workouts at nearby San Jose State during the 2011 lockout. Harbaugh handed over his playbook, fully trusting that Smith would be back. He did return on a one-year deal and guided the 49ers to a 13-3 record to end an eight-year playoff drought. Then, he received a three-year contract last spring after Harbaugh and the 49ers flew to North Carolina to work out Peyton Manning, who wound up in Denver.

Smith showed no hard feelings and went back to work. Here's a guy who threw for 1,737 yards and 13 touchdowns with five interceptions and posted a 104.1 passer rating this season.

His family life certainly helps him keep everything in perspective. Smith and his wife, Elizabeth, are expecting their second son in mid-March to join big brother-to-be Hudson, who turns 2 in May.

Smith has said all the right things and quietly left much unsaid. He has stayed behind the scenes and out of the spotlight – rarely seen in the locker room, even – praising Kaepernick's clutch decision-making and cool demeanor all the while.

''Alex has been a class act as far as handling everything that is going on,'' Davis said. ''He's been through a lot. But he also understands that it's the nature of the business. And this is a business.''

It's not as though it was Smith's first benching. There were several changes during the 2010 season alone.

These days, Smith's backup job is far from complicated.

''For me, it's just being worried about being ready to go,'' Smith said. ''That's my responsibility, knowing the game plan, staying in it, staying focused in the meetings. You don't get the reps that you used to get, so it's a different style of preparation. For me, I have to take the reps standing back there watching, and really do it through Kap.

''You never know when your opportunity's going to come. The good ones are ready when they do come.''

San Francisco cracking down on Super Sunday violence


San Francisco officials are taking tougher measures to prevent potential fan violence on Super Bowl Sunday when the 49ers battle the Baltimore Ravens in New Orleans.

With the Niners' sixth appearance in the big game more than a week away on Feb. 3, San Francisco police said they will be monitoring crowds and bars at multiple hotspots across the city. More than 400 officers will be on duty, triple the number on a normal Sunday.

Mayor Ed Lee is also suggesting that bars limit liquor sales, or at the very least serve alcohol responsibly. But officials say the city doesn't plan to ban hard alcohol.

''(I want) to suggest that they serve something (other) than heavy alcohol during times of celebration,'' Lee told reporters. ''Inebriation sometimes doesn't help with people who want to maybe go beyond the bounds of acceptability in their celebration.''

J.J. Bishop, a bartender at Nova Bar and Restaurant located about two blocks from where baseball's world champion Giants play at AT&T Park, told The Associated Press on Friday he understands the mayor's position.

''It's a wise thing for him to ask the establishments to keep an eye on alcohol consumption,'' Bishop, 47, said. ''I plan on telling my fellow bartenders about what he said. Of course, it's definitely something to keep in mind.''

After the Niners won the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, police arrested a dozen people – a majority for public intoxication – during rowdy celebrations mostly in the city's Mission district.

Lee also added that he and Police Chief Greg Suhr, prior to the Super Bowl, will visit that area and others hit hard by vandalism and destruction after the Giants clinched the World Series in October. About three-dozen people were arrested during postgame celebrations that got out of control when revelers overturned cars, set bonfires, destroyed property and torched a city bus.

''You'll see me very visible in those areas myself preceding the game,'' Lee said. ''I'm going to walk those corridors again and reassure all the small business owners, merchants and the residents that we're going to do every possible to keep our city safe.''

There also will be no public large-screen viewing of the Feb. 3 game in the Civic Center similar to when the Giants won the World Series. The National Football League rejected the idea due to broadcast copyright laws.

''Probably a business decision on their part,'' Lee said. ''We'll respect it. I would love to have that opportunity because it could help us center maybe some of the celebrations, but we're going to keep the city safe.''

Also, police and transit officials say that will have more diesel buses instead of electric buses that can easily be redirected through large crowds.

The city will also pick up trash from dumpsters to prevent any fires and there will be street closures beginning the Saturday before the big game, officials said.

Bishop said he remembers seeing the destruction after the Giants won its title three months ago.

''It was a pretty crazy scene. I saw a lot of garbage cans in ashes on the way home. There wasn't one garbage can standing,'' Bishop said. ''I'm hoping it doesn't get too crazy next Sunday.''

Crabtree won't be charged in alleged assault case


Criminal charges won't be filed against 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree after an alleged sexual assault in a hotel after the team's playoff victory over the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco's district attorney said late last week before the team left for the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

After examining information submitted by police, District Attorney George Gascon said his office determined that no charges would be filed "at this time."

"The San Francisco Police Department - Special Victims Unit completed and submitted a thorough investigation of the allegations against Michael Crabtree," Gascon said.

San Francisco police said Crabtree was never detained or arrested in the matter, and that he cooperated fully with their investigation.

The 49ers are preparing to meet the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team was pleased that the district attorney decided to not file charges after reviewing the matter.

"Michael and the team can now put this behind us and move forward," Baalke said in a statement.

During the regular season, Crabtree became the first San Francisco wide receiver with more than 1,000 yards in a season since Terrell Owens in 2003. He led the 49ers with 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns receiving.

Former 49ers tackle faces domestic violence charges


Former San Francisco 49er Kwame Harris has been charged with felony domestic violence and assault charges from an August beating involving a former boyfriend, a prosecutor and defense lawyer said.

Following a pretrial hearing in the case Monday, a San Mateo County judge set a late-April trial date for Harris, an offensive tackle who played five seasons with the 49ers and one season with the Oakland Raiders, assistant district attorney Al Serrato said.

The charges stem from an altercation outside a Menlo Park restaurant between Harris, 30, and Dimitri Geier, who suffered several facial fractures that required surgery, Serrato said.

Although a handful of former NFL players have come out as gay, none has while still wearing a uniform. Defense lawyer Alin Cintean said Harris, who played for Stanford before he was drafted by the 49ers in 2003 and has gone back to school to finish his undergraduate degree, identifies as gay but "is not very public about it."

"He is a very private person. He doesn't like to talk about his personal life," he said.

Prosecutors are pursuing the domestic violence charge because the two men used to live together and had an on-again, off-again romantic relationship, Serrato said.

"Whenever we move forward with charges, it's because we believe the evidence is sufficient," Serrato said. "Certainly the injuries are consistent with a serious assault."

Harris has pleaded not guilty and posted $75,000 bail after his arrest, Cintean said. Harris acknowledges he and Geier once were a couple, but says he struck Geier in self-defense, Cintean said.

"Mr. Geier first assaulted my client, and my client had a reasonable response to being assaulted," he said. "Unfortunately, Mr. Geier is the one who ended up with an injury."

Gore socks on high for Super Bowl?


Frank Gore will pay closer attention to his socks for the Super Bowl.

The four-time Pro Bowl running back was fined $10,500 by the NFL last week after he wore his socks too low in the NFC championship game at Atlanta, a uniform violation. It marked the second time he was fined this season.

''Yeah, I'll be cool. It's all good,'' Gore said. ''I was wrong. Next time I'll do better.''

Gore says he was so focused on winning the game and getting the 49ers back to a Super Bowl at last that he didn't give his uniform all the attention he should have.

''When you're playing, you don't think about it,'' Gore said. ''You're trying to win.''

He did his part on the field, though. Gore ran for touchdowns of 5 and 9 yards in the Niners' 28-24 comeback victory over the Falcons, putting his team in position to capture the franchise's sixth title on Feb. 3 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

The 29-year-old Gore, the 49ers' career leader in yards rushing (8,839) and touchdowns rushing (51), carried 218 times during the regular season for 1,214 yards and eight TDs. He earned his sixth 1,000-yard season - most in franchise history and second among active players behind the Rams' Steven Jackson.

Pelosi backing 49ers – of course


For politicians, you gotta go with the people who sent you there.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi says she'll be rooting for San Francisco, the city she has represented in Congress for the past quarter-century, over Baltimore, the city where she was born and raised, when it comes to the Super Bowl.

Pelosi says her late father, as mayor of Baltimore, built Baltimore Memorial Stadium and that she has long been a fan of Baltimore sports teams, including the Ravens.

But she points out that her constituency is San Francisco – and that her children grew up going to games with 49er greats such as Joe Montana and Steve Young.

Pelosi puts it this way: ''I'm rooting for the 49ers. ... I'm not rooting against Baltimore.''

Trademarking Kaepernicking


Quarterback Coln Kaepernick wants to trademark his bicep-kissing habit.

The tattooed star has filed a trademark for "Kaepernicking," a signature move that has swept through the West Coast during the 49ers' playoff run.

Citing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website, ESPN.com said Kaepernick registered Jan. 14, and plans to use the image on clothing.

The official "Kaepernicking" shirt is made by a company called Sportiqe. Some proceeds go to Camp Taylor, which organizes camps for children with congenital heart defects.


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