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The Prodigal Son Returns...

Apparently Alex Smith is joining the ranks of Punxsutawney Phil in disappearing for most of the winter and airing himself when the weather warms up out here in the Bay Area.  After having shoulder surgery in December, Smith disappeared from the face of the earth in the midst of rehabbing the shoulder.  After a tumultuous offseason, maybe it was a good thing that he did his thing away from the spotlight.   However, after a busy first few months of the offseason, Smith took part in a conference call today to update reporters on his health and the 49ers general quarterback situation.

Matt Barrows' thoughts

Matt Maiocco's thoughts

ESPN story

On the upcoming QB competition (MB): Smith, of course, will be trying to hold off Shaun Hill and J.T. O'Sullivan for the starting job in 2008. He said he welcomed the competition and should be able to do everything that Hill and O'Sullivan do as they begin to learn the offense over the next few weeks. He said he already has begun working with quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and offensive coordinator Mike Martz on the new offense.
On his issues with Nolan (MM): "I think we're both looking forward to putting last year behind us," Smith said. "I've talked to him several times and we're both excited about it. I know I definitely am. Because I know that's not a reflection on either of us. We're both better than that, and I think we're looking forward to erasing that and proving to people, not only in this building but everywhere, that we're definitely going to move on . . . We talked, and we continue to talk about it and understand what happened last year and we're moving on," Smith said. "We both understand each other. There were things I look back at and wish I could have over again. (The) thing to do is to learn from it and not let it happen again and letting coach Nolan know that he can expect different from last year."
On the new offense (ESPN): Martz already has begun installing his high-octane offense for the team that had the NFL's worst attack in two of the last three seasons. Smith is excited about the possibilities, particularly with new receivers Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson to bolster the league's least impressive receiving corps.

Smith: "You just look at the track record [Martz] has had with all his quarterbacks and the way they've played, the numbers they've put up and where they've taken their games," Smith said. "I feel like that's a level I haven't even been at in the NFL, in terms of reaching my potential. ... It's definitely different, but I guess that's the one thing I've grown accustomed to is the change. That's kind of normal in the NFL, and you get used to it real quick."

In countering the issue of QBs being exposed in Martz's offense, Smith said he actually played in a similar offense at Utah.  My knowledge of offensive styles is not huge but I'm curious how similar the Urban Meyer spread offense is to the Mike Martz passing attack.  Anybody have any insight on this?

The one thing to take away from this is that Alex Smith is certainly saying all the right things as we approach the new season.  He and Nolan HAVE to be on the same page if he is going to have success this year.  I was going to say if the 49ers are going to have success, but we know that they have shown success under Shaun Hill.  This is a big year for Alex Smith and he seems to recognize this and be taking the steps necessary to make some kind of leap forward.  Of course talk and practice are just that and nothing more.  Judgment will need to be reserved for the playing field.  

While I will have predictions prior to the start of the season, I can honestly say I have no idea what to expect from the quarterback position at this point.  Hill showed some real ability late last season; J.T. O'Sullivan has experience in the Martz offense; And Alex Smith seems to be taking the bull by the horns in learning the offense and moving past a nightmare 2007 season.  The upside to that is that anything is possible for any of these guys in 2008.  The downside?  Anything is possible for any of these guys in 2008.