Going back home

Alex Smith returns home to San Diego on Thursday not as the 49ers' triumphant starting quarterback, but as the hotshot rookie backup who wasn't ready to handle his early shot at the starting job. But that's OK with Smith, who will be playing for the first time as a pro in his family's backyard. Smith has a history on the field at Qualcomm Stadium, having played there twice in high school and twice in college, and he considers the latest visit just another step in his steady progression.

Q: So, Alex, are you looking forward to going back to San Diego?

Yeah. It will be a little different, obviously, with flying in and traveling the day of, so I'm not going to get to spend a ton of time there. But this will be the fifth time I've played in this stadium. I played there twice in high school and twice in college and now it's the pro level. It's pretty crazy. Looking back on when I was in high school, I never thought, never imagined this. So, it will be nice.

Q: Did you win all those games?

I lost one, my redshirt year, my freshman year in college. The high school games were CIF (section) championship games.

Q: So they're expecting a lot out of you down there then?

Well, we'll see. It'll be nice. There will be a lot of supportive friends and family there, a lot of people I know. It will be a great atmosphere, going home to the stadium I went to when I was little to watch games. I remember going to Chargers games, (San Diego State) Aztecs games my whole life. And then, being able to play there in high school and then going back in college. Now it's the 49ers, so it's pretty special.

Q: How much are you expecting to play?

I don't know. I talked to coach just a little bit about that. I don't know how they're going to do it. I think, actually, it probably will be not as much as this last week. I think they're going to let Cody (Pickett) and Ken (Dorsey) try to get some more reps. They haven't got much the last two weeks. So, give them some more time. I imagine I'll take a few series, though. But that hasn't been clarified yet.

Q: What do you hope to get out of this next outing?

Oh, to continue to gain from it. As of right now, I'm one play away. I need to continue to get better. This is the fourth preseason game. It might be the last time I play in a game for a few weeks. Who knows what's going to happen? So, I need to keep taking advantage of it and keep getting better. I guess it's the same expectations as the last three weeks.

Q: Was it a good feeling last week to have some success after struggling in your first two preseason games?

Oh, absolutely. I think it was finally nice to get in a rhythm. It was so difficult those first two times to even get in a rhythm. I was only on the field, it seemed, three plays at a time all the time. You never really could find a rhythm. It was nice to finally kind of lose myself. It's the first time I've done that since college. There are so many changes. It's not only game speed, you're second-guessing yourself and you're not always sure of yourself. A lot of things go into that. That was the first time that I really, kind of was engulfed in the game finally, and that felt good.

Q: After being hit with an onslaught of everything at the beginning of training camp, has a step back helped you a little bit the past two weeks?

A lot of things have changed. Obviously, going through what happened the last week-and-a-half did kind of put things in perspective for me. Obviously, the goal is to be as successful as possible. However likely or unlikely or impossible that was, it kind of put things in perspective, everything that happened with Thomas (Herrion). Things are going to come, I'm going to get through this and keep working, and in the scheme of things hopefully in three years from now I'll kind of look back at this and kind of smile on it. It was a learning experience. I think a lot of rookies go through it, especially at the quarterback position.

Q: After getting everything thrown at you early, is it maybe now a little less right now?

When coach talked to me, I think that was kind of the plan. I think they thought about how they were going to handle this. I think they thought out what they were going to do with me. They gave me the reps to go with when the camp started and the first two games, and looking back on it … Now, stepping back, it does kind of change. Eventually, when I do get back in the starting role, it will be different. I think it will be, I don't want to say easier, but it will be in a different light. When you say the No. 1 pick is going to go out and start the opening game, I think that's going to get a lot of attention. Now I think I can just kind of go to work. And I think - not that I'm accepting this position as a backup - but I'm still trying to push Tim, because you never know what's going to happen in the weeks to come. And when it does come, I think I'll be glad that I did get these starting roles these first two weeks because I think it will make things kind of slow down for me. I will have been a starter before. Obviously, it's preseason, but I will have gone through it, gone through the motions. It won't be as big a deal for me.

Q: So you understand the whole plan then?

Definitely, in how they handled it. I've put my trust in the coaches. I feel like they know what they're doing. Coach Nolan is such a smart guy, coach McCarthy - they thought this out. And they're going to handle it the right way, and so far they have.

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