Camp chat: Alex Smith

As Alex Smith settles into his training camp groove, there is no comparison this year to his first two summers with the 49ers. He's now the cool leader of the offense looking to get better in every aspect and take his game to the next level, and here he covers a spectrum of topics dealing with the team, his receiving targets and his individual development.

Q: How much different does the first week of this camp feel compared to your first two camps?
Smith:
A lot different. My first camp – even last year's camp – felt very similar, but this camp finally … It's hard to explain and put into words. I'm much more comfortable in where I'm at, much more confident in what I'm supposed to be doing. I really feel like I'm back to playing football. I know what I'm supposed to be doing. The last couple of years, there was a lot of uncertainties going into the season and going into camp. It's hard to deal with when you're not certain what's going to come ahead of you. This year, it's nice to know what to expect, it's nice to know what to anticipate, what things are going to be like, what it's like to play a season, what it's like to go through game week. It's nice to have the offense already installed before camp starts. A lot of things I'm more comfortable with. But at the same time, I have much, much higher expectations for myself and this team.

Q: How nice is it to have a little more depth this season at wide receiver?
Smith:
That's the biggest thing, I think. It's depth. All of a sudden, you're getting three and four wides, your talking about three and four guys that can all make plays, three and four guys that are all going to win and be there for you. And no longer is that something else that I have to take into account, is who are my guys out there. Now it's just read the defense and throw the ball where I'm supposed to. I don't have to think about my matchups as much, and it's nice to have that.

Q: And Vernon Davis can be, because of his speed, something like a wide receiver depending on how you use him?
Smith:
Oh, easily. I'm sure if he raced those guys, he'd give a lot of them a lot of problems. But that's the nice thing about Vernon. He is so versatile. And if you look at him block, when you see him block up front, he's a tremendous blocker and takes a lot of pride in that. You appreciate that. Then, all of a sudden, you turn him loose on a linebacker or a DB, and look out. It's nice to have that versatility with him because I think some tight ends at this level don't provide both luxuries, don't provide that protection, don't provide that run blocking – and the receiving. It's nice to have a guy that takes pride in both and can do both.

Q: Is Vernon learning the subtleties of playing the position?
Smith:
Very much, and it's not just physical side of the game. There's definitely a mental side, and so much of the tight end is kind of having a feel, having a knack, to feel zone and man, and when to show your body, and when to give your numbers, and when to run away, and he has improved so much in that thus far. We want to keep improving, but he has come a long way with that. And having a feel for the offense, for his route-running, for the defense, and seeing things, he has really improved in that area.

Q: Do Vernon and some of the young holdover receivers that you worked a little bit with last year, do they even look like the same players to you now?
Smith:
Not at all. Especially when you're talking Brandon (Williams) and Taylor (Jacobs), when you look at Taylor out there, you see how much more confident he is. And I think the same thing happens to all of us, when you're not really sure about the offense, or what you're supposed to be doing, and you're thinking your too much, it shows up in how you play. You look at those two now. They understand the system, they understand what they're supposed to be doing, and are confident in that. You see them turn it loose, and all of a sudden now you're making plays, and you can see that in them. And it's nice to see.

Q: Have you ever looked at the depth chart at wide receiver and wonder how it's going to fall after the starters?
Smith:
I think about it a little bit, what's going to happen, but I try not to think about it at this time. I kind of have a little idea. The nice thing is you don't really have to worry about it. There really is a number of those guys that can make plays. The reality is, we're probably going to have release someone this year that would have made the team my rookie year, and probably would have started. Which is a good problem. They've done a great job bringing good talent in here and good guys. I'm not sure what's going to happen, but we'll figure that. We still have a while to do that.

Q: What does a guy like Darrell Jackson mean to the club?
Smith:
It means a lot. There's a lot of youth in that receiver corps, and it's nice to bring in a guy like Darrell who is proven, has played a lot, and won a lot of games. You know, has been to the playoffs and has that experience. Although right now he's still trying to pick up the system and learn it, he has that game experience. We don't have a ton of that outside.

Q: How much has this team progressed since your rookie season?
Smith:
It's not real comparable. It's hard to quantify. We've improved in so many areas. I know if this team played that team, it wouldn't be very close, that's for sure.

Q: For yourself personally, how do you look to progress this season?
Smith:
I look to take it to the next level, and it might not come out in the statistics – although I hope it does – but it's little things. It's being a big-time player in critical situations. Coming through on third down, coming through in red zone, when the game's on the line, in two-minute drills. Growing in that aspect, and really helping this team win games, and obviously limiting turnovers … to improve in all those areas.

Q: How much have you gotten to know the new receivers as players on the field?
Smith:
Well, quite a bit. A week of camp never really feels like a normal week. It feels like a lot more. So you get a lot of time with each other, you get a feel for each other, you work a lot together, and get a lot of reps. The great thing is those guys have been out there working hard, and we've spent a lot of time together. We've still got another week, and then preseason starts. We've got a lot ahead of us. We have to continue to work, continue to never be content, stay hungry and work at it.


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