Camp chat: Alex Smith

Alex Smith gives his takes on a wide spectrum of topics after a week of 49ers training camp practices.

Q: How do you feel the offense has been progressing during the first week of training camp?
Smith:
I feel good about it. We are still installing the offense in chunks. Each day, we are putting empshasis on certain things that we are putting in that day and so there will come a time. When those installations start slowing down and then everything is just going to come together. We're a little more cohesive now. We are practicing so many situations, short yardage, red zone, third down, two minute, whatever it is. You practice those for that day and then the next day it's another installation. Obviously, we've been practicing those situations, but I do feel good about it. I feel like we've come a long way. I think we've put in all that time in the offseason. I think we've taken the necessary steps here.

Q: What from this offense is most similar to what you ran in 2006 under Norv Turner?
Smith:
I would say from a terminology standpoint, yes, as far as the language we use, the way the offense is organized, it's similar in that sense. But, I would say that's kind of where it ends. They are similar, but it's a little different. I think the things that we are trying to do with this offense, will be a little different. I don't know, I don't see us being like that as much. We are similar, but I don't know, I guess I just see us as doing more. Does that make sense? Not that we didn't do a lot with Norv, but I think we have the ability now and we've got a lot of talent out there and I think we have the ability now to show a little more.

Q: Do you think this offense will better utilize the tight ends this season?
Smith:
Those are guys that we have to take advantage of. Vernon [Davis], Delanie [Walker], the rest of the tight ends, those are guys that need to step up for us. We need to take advantage of their ability. They're a matchup problem for a lot defenses, so that is something that we need to develop.

Q: How important is the deep pass going to be this year because of the emphasis this offense is placing on the run?
Smith:
I think they go hand in hand. In order to have everything going, you have to play action off of it. If not, then you will just get overloaded boxes and they are going to come up with something and you have to be able to keep defenses on their heels. Some of that requires some play action chunk plays, getting the ball downfield, stretching defenses, don't let them sit on you, play on top of you. I think you get them off of you a little bit. You get them on your heels.

Q: Why have you had more opportunities to throw down the field in training camp so far?
Smith:
It's probably just pure coincidence. I honestly would say that, just how the scripting worked out because when they script practice, they don't script according to what reps Shaun [Hill] and I are getting because we are kind of doing that as we go. Shaun and I are switching off, so I think it's just pure coincidence.

Q: How do you feel your maturation as a quarterback is coming along?
Smith:
I think that comes with comfort and confidence as you spend more time in an offense. The more comfortable you get, the more ownership you take of it. Therefore, you have more knowledge to go outside their lines a little bit and take more freedoms within it.

Q: Are you calling guys out now for making mistakes?
Smith:
I'm not a real ‘calls guys out' type of guy. We are trying to get it fixed at this point. Calling guys out and things like that sometimes isn't necessary, especially now. We are trying to get it right. We are trying to learn. This is the time we are trying to get prepared for games. So right now, a little more constructive, get guys after, make sure you get it right, make sure you are seeing the same things, you are communicating. That's what is important right now. If we have to get in a group to get us to go because we might be flat or something, that's another thing, but as far as getting things corrected right now, I think we are really trying to be constructive and are trying to build this.

Q: You look more fundamentally sound now. Were you not focusing as much on fundamentals earlier in your career?
Smith:
I would agree with that in the sense that, and I hate saying this because it's not an excuse, but when you have some of that turnover on offense, the priority turns to learning that playbook as opposed to fundamentals, and that falls on me as well. I think at points in my past, yes I've really strayed away from that. I've focused on the playbook more than my fundamentals, and both are equally as important and this year I think I've done a much better job with Coach [Mike] Johnson and Jimmy [Raye] of walking that line. I've really been working hard on fundamentals, my footwork in the pocket, as well as in the playbook because they are both really vital to being a good quarterback.

Q: How much is your new quarterbacks coach focusing on fundamentals?
Smith:
He is really good with it. It's the most work I've really got, as far as pocket stuff, my feet, it's the best I've felt with it.

Q: Is this training camp the best you've ever seen out of Frank Gore?
Smith:
I would agree with that. It's the best shape, the fastest he's practiced, the best he's looked.

Q: Do you feel like a different quarterback in this year's camp?
Smith:
I hope so. You have to take that step, you have to learn, you have to grow with it, good and bad. You certainly don't want to stay the same. Also, I'm definitely better. I think I've grown, I still have a lot of growing left to do, but definitely."

Q: How do you feel different in this camp?
Smith:
I'm more mature. I definitely think I have a different look at the game, a better understanding of the game. I'm just coming into my fifth year in the league. I think, when I look back to where I was, out there playing, I didn't have a great grasp of all the different situations, not a great command of those the last time that I played. So I think I have got a better sense of that, managing the game.

Q: Will the competition at quarterback stop even after a starter is named?
Smith:
I don't imagine because whoever gets in as the starter, the other guy isn't just all of a sudden going to relax. You've got to be ready to go. I think we are going to constantly be pushing each other. It's a 16-game season, just look at the history of quarterback play around the league, especially here, you better be ready.

Q: What do you feel you need to prove to everybody this season?
Smith:
I think it's playing at a high level consistently, that's it. You can't be showing glimpses of it, the ups and downs, and the roller coaster of it. Not to say there isn't going to be bad plays and mistakes. Playing at a high level consistently, playing fast, consistently, that's what it is going to be about.

Q: Is everything pretty organized in this offense?
Smith:
Yes, I think there is far more organization in this offense, a little bit more about execution than about Xs and Os, which is a good thing.

Q: Is it difficult to establish a rhythm as a quarterback when you are always switching in and out of the huddle?
Smith:
Yeah, it can be when you are switching groups from [No.] 1s and [No.] 2s, but you have to deal with it. It's part of the deal.

Q: Are you feeling the physicality of camp as a quarterback, since you are off limits or contact?
Smith:
Yes, we aren't really doing the nutcrackers, but you still feel it. We aren't kickers or anything, but are still out there going, no offense to Joe Nedney.

Q: Who would win a nutcracker drill between you and Shaun Hill?
Smith:
He's got the weight advantage for sure, I don't know. It's a little bit, you feel it. When we are out there, we are going, we did pitch count, and how many balls you throw you feel that and all the drops. Definitely, you get it and work through it like anyone else.

Q: What are you doing to try to take the starting job away from Shaun Hill?
Smith:
I think I try to play to my strengths, that's correct. I don't think I do anything subconsciously because of Shaun. I'm going out there to try to play the best I can. I'm trying to make this offense work to the best of its abilities and play fast, make good decisions. All the things that a quarterback needs to do and I'm trying to do that. Any other things that go into that might just be the style of our play, but no it has nothing to do with us being friends. It wouldn't change if we didn't like each other. I'd still go out there and play just the same.

Q: Have you heard from rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree?
Smith:
I haven't spoken to him since this summer. It's something that I haven't thought about to tell you the truth. I'm pretty focused with the guys here right now. I'm developing that. I look forward to it being done, but other than that I'm not really worried about it right now.

Q: What is Crabtree missing out on by not being here in camp for a full week now?
Smith:
When you are a rookie, you are already behind the 8-ball. You are so far behind you are just trying to play catch up. You miss out on so many practices, being a part of this team and obviously all the timing that goes on out there, knowing that position, it makes it hard.


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