Smith excited about making people forget 2005

Alex Smith realizes he did not make a good first impression during his rookie season as 49ers quarterback, but he expects things to turn out like his college career. With training camp set to open later this week, Smith is excited about the prospect of making people forget his oh-so-forgettable first season in the NFL.

"I'm tremendously excited about it," Smith said. "There was so much stuff around last year, I feel like this year I'm actually back to playing football. I was still playing last year, but there was so much clutter around that it kind of lost some of the sport about it."

Smith, who was known for his athleticism and decision-making at Utah, showed few of the traits that made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft. His passer rating was a lowly 40.8. He threw 11 interceptions and just one touchdown pass, and he rushed for just 103 yards while playing nine games, including seven starts.

He said part of the problem last season was that he never got fully comfortable in the West Coast offense. But in his second year, he now is working under a different offense, as Norv Turner has taken over as coordinator for Mike McCarthy, who left the 49ers to become Packers head coach.

When the 49ers selected Smith, his former coach at Utah, Urban Meyer, predicted Smith with struggle as a rookie. He said that Smith would be "non-functional" until he learned everything about the offense. Indeed, Smith looked robotic and tentative with the 49ers.

"It's the same thing I went through at Utah," Smith said. "When I didn't know where I was going with the ball, I had those exact words said about me, that I played robotic. Because I was unsure, I was very rigid in where I wanted to go because I was such a cerebral player. I think that's what makes me a good player.

"When I'm dropping back and second-guessing myself, I think I do play that way. My athleticism doesn't come out because I'm second-guessing myself. I'm not playing. I'm playing slow, and it's very visible."

Even though Smith has been through just the offseason program, he said he feels so much better than a year ago.

"I'm much more comfortable dropping back now, and say I don't even know what the defense is doing – it's scattered – I feel more confident now about knowing where I should go with the ball. I know the answers. Last year, everything was so new that I'd panic."

TRAINING CAMP CALENDAR: Full squad reports on Thursday with first practice scheduled for Friday. The 49ers will not hold a scrimmage. Nine dates are open to the public. Each of the nine open practices feature interactive games and player autograph sessions for fans The free open practices are scheduled for Saturday, July 29 (9:00 a.m.), Monday, July 31 (4:00 p.m.), Wednesday, August 2 (4:00 p.m.), Friday, August 4 (4:00 p.m.), Saturday, August 5 (3:00 p.m.), Monday, August 7 (4:00 p.m.), Wednesday, August 9 (4:00 p.m.), Sunday, August 13 (9:40 a.m.) and Tuesday, August 15 (4:00 p.m.). More than 3,000 people are expected to attend each ticketed practice. To obtain tickets, fans must register online at www.49ers.com. Tickets are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

NINERS NOTES
--- When the 49ers acquired backup quarterback Trent Dilfer in a trade with the Browns, he was issued No. 10. But Dilfer almost immediately had his eye on a number that has not been issued to a 49ers player since 1973. Former quarterback John Brodie, who played a club-record 17 seasons with the 49ers, had his No. 12 jersey retired in 1973, the same year in which he called it quits. Dilfer has known Brodie for several years. After Dilfer became a member of the 49ers, he called Brodie. "I'd love to honor you by wearing your number," Dilfer said he told Brodie. "Is that all right? And he said, 'Yes! Yes!' He was all fired up." Brodie nearly died in 2000 from a massive stroke, which left him with impaired speech and limited use of his right arm. Dilfer hopes he can bring some attention back to Brodie as a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brodie ranks second in 49ers history with 31,548 yards (behind Joe Montana) and third in touchdowns passes with 214 (behind Montana and Steve Young). "John has been a huge influence in my life," Dilfer added. "Really, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with him. I believe he should be in the Hall of Fame, and hopefully his number coming out again will kind of get that thing rolling." When the 49ers take the field for their first camp practice Friday, Dilfer will be wearing No. 12 jersey.
--- Joe Montana attended Notre Dame, which has one of the richest football traditions in college football. The 49ers became a dynasty with him at quarterback. Now, his sons will be attending a school that boasts the most dominant football program of them all. Montana's two sons recently enrolled at De La Salle High in Concord, Calif. The school had its record win streak of 151 games snapped two years ago. Montana's eldest son, Nathaniel, decided he will not play football in his junior season, concentrating on basketball. However, freshman Nicholas Montana is a quarterback.
--- The 49ers and HNTB Architecture Inc. announced a preliminary design for a possible stadium to replace dilapidated Monster Park (Candlestick) for the 2012 season. The 68,000-seat stadium can be expanded to up to 80,000 for such events as the Super Bowl, Olympic opening and closing ceremonies and World Cup soccer. However, the plan has not been given the green light, and political battles are certain to pose hurdles. Also, the club has not yet presented a financing plan for the stadium that will be built entirely with private money, according to team owner John York. If the 49ers are unable to build the stadium in San Francisco, they say that they will try to get the project completed about 40 miles south in Santa Clara.
--- Center Jeremy Newberry, who finished last season on injured reserve after deciding to undergo knee surgery, is expected to be on the practice field when raining camp begins. The 49ers and Newberry took the cautious route and held him out of the offseason team work. But the big question will be whether Newberry can withstand the demands of blocking 300-pound defensive tackles. Newberry rarely practiced last season because of the pain he had to endure. He hopes to practice nearly every day during training camp. The club has only seven double-day practices in which Newberry would be expected to participate. The 49ers also have seven afternoon practices devoted entirely to special teams.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Losing was frustrating; not playing well was frustrating. Especially when I know I can play so much better. Being out here at practice and knowing I can make these throws, knowing I can play at this level and be good at this level, then going out on Sundays and to not play to that potential is frustrating." -- 49ers quarterback Alex Smith on the struggles of his rookie season.


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