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Alex Smith: 11th Smartest Athlete

The folks at Sporting News have put together a feature article looking at the various "smart" athletes across the various major sports. Our very own Alex Smith was ranked #11. It's in the September 27th issue that comes out this week. The highest ranked athlete was Oakland A's pitcher Craig Breslow (biochemistry degree from Yale and accepted into NYU Medical School) and the highest ranked football player was S Myron Rolle of the Tennessee Titans (Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Bills was the highest ranked starter).

As many already know, Smith finished up his degree in economics in two years at the University of Utah and generally is considered one of the smarter football players out there. He spoke to the media yesterday about a variety of topics (transcript after the jump) and was asked about the ranking. Apparently he told Sporting News that he felt Eric Heitmann was the smartest guy on the team.

As important as brains can be to the position of QB, a player's instincts can be equally if not more important. Whether it's anticipating the rush from a certain side of the field to having a connection with your receiver so you'll know when he is going to potentially break off a route. Some think instincts are a natural sort of thing, but I'd contend that time in an offense and with the various skill position players can help build those instincts. I suppose we'll continue finding this out on Sunday against the Chiefs.

Smith addressed his scrambling skills during the media session, and that is one area that often leaves me confused. He is incredibly athletic and can look completely naturally scrambling in the pocket and then out for a 12 yard gain. And then other times it seems like all hell breaks loose and he rolls to the right and eventually throws the ball out of bounds. Obviously I don't know entirely what's going on in his field of vision so I suppose I can only question it so much.

Smith also spoke about potentially using silent counts this Sunday at Arrowhead. The 49ers offensive line played incredibly well this past Monday, so they'll be tested just as much as anybody else on Sunday. Even as the young offensive line develops together, there are new challenges each week. As I mentioned yesterday, I really see this as potentially as big a challenge or obstacle as the Saints game in large part due to the crowd noise. I'm really intrigued (and hopefully) about how the 49ers respond.

Check out Alex Smith's transcript after the jump...

QB Alex Smith
September 22, 2010
San Francisco 49ers 

cfm?audio_id=5123" target="_blank">Listen to Audio I Media Center

On making plays in the clutch:

"Obviously, you like to make plays all the time I guess, the time and place I think as far as when to force things, you know, when to take it a little more on your shoulders. You know, in that two-minute situation, obviously things had to happen. I knew that so I was willing to hold onto the ball a little more, run around, make plays. Sometimes on first and second down within the flow of a game, you don't want to that. Sometimes, you know, just as often as good things can happen bad things can happen when you do that. So knowing situational football and when to try and take some shots like that."

On whether his running needs to be more a part of his plays:

"You know, certainly when the opportunity presents itself to run I would like to run. But just as much of that, you know, using your legs isn't necessarily - it can be escaping pressure to throw a ball away, it can be escaping pressure to get out and keep your eyes downfield to complete a pass just as much as getting the yardage with your legs. So I mean, all those things come into it. I think if I was ever to roll out and I saw an opportunity to run I'd take it, you know, but sometimes it isn't always there and it's to keep your eyes downfield and look to make a play with your arm. But, it's certainly something I'm thinking about whenever I get out of the pocket or, you know, have an opportunity."

On whether scrambling is a conscious decision:

"I don't think it's something it's something you can consciously do. I think it's something that happens instinctively - you drop back in the pocket and all of a sudden, if there's pressure or a lane opens, you take off and go. It's not something you can do pre-snap or decide going into the game, ‘Hey I'm going to run a lot this game.' I think if you do that, you'll get yourself into trouble."

On whether he thought about running during the two-point conversion:

"Oh absolutely. I mean, that's something that you just know for a two-point conversion, if all else fails, run around and throw it up is the option. You know, game on the line, I certainly wasn't going to take a sack or if something wasn't there throw an incompletion. It doesn't necessarily have to come out in time there. No question, yeah I definitely think about that."

On whether the upcoming game against the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium will be another good test of the offense's communication:

"Yeah it will be another really good test for us, you know. In the first three weeks, we'll be playing in the two, I think, of the two loudest outdoor stadiums. So yeah, it will be another good test for us as far as communication goes. I think it's something we've improved on but, you know, I think it's one of those things that you can never stop working on."

On the method of plays head coach Mike Singletary calls to him for his wristband:

"Just the number."

On whether head coach Mike Singletary gives him any alerts when sending in the number of the play to call:

"You know, most of that stuff is done preparation wise, so I know most of that so at this point, most of it is just the number. Occasionally you can get things, little things here and there."

On whether he's looking at the wristband and the numbers the play correlates to:

"Yeah, so every play is numbered on my wristband, yeah."

On how many plays are on the wristband:

"I think there are about 180 on there."

On whether the formation is on the wristband as well:

"The whole play is on there."

On the pace of the offense against the Saints:

"Well, I think that's one of those, I think, probably a lot of things to go into it. Just the style of the way we were playing, the tempo, I think, sometimes doesn't get talked about enough. We were getting in and out of the huddle, running up to the line of scrimmage, running the play, executing. We were balanced, running the football well, throwing it well and I think that really has a lot to do with it. I think, all of a sudden, guys get that energy going, get that tempo going, that rhythm that we're talking about so I think that has a lot to do with it."

On whether they can use silent counts in Kansas City:

"Yes, absolutely, no question. Yes, no question. And shift and motion goes into that too just as much on the road, you know, when you're shifting and motioning, those are things that can help you. And then absolutely use the silent cadence to help you as well. It's probably not as effective but it can be."

On whether they used the silent cadence in week one against the Seahawks:

"A little bit, probably not as much as we probably would have liked to, but a little bit."

On mixing up the rhythm when the center snaps the ball:

"Yeah, absolutely. You try to mix that up as much as you can."

On what defenses are doing to stop WR Michael Crabtree:

"I don't know, you know, probably a better question for defenses. You know, Monday night, that was a very unique defense. They - not a lot of defenses out there like it. They're very unorthodox in the coverages and the pressures, what you see is never what you get with them. They'll show you one thing and do another. I guess just the style of defense, they were going to pressure you, but at the same time in the secondary, the safeties were playing deep, corners playing outside-in. They were taking away a lot of the free-access cuts as we call it - single cuts for the receivers. A lot of that was taken away just by the coverage they were playing, so I think that kind of dictated a little bit of where the ball was going."

On whether he agrees with head coach Mike Singletary saying the Saints game was QB Alex Smith's best performance since he has been coaching there:

"I don't know, you know. Statistically you'd say no just off the numbers, but statistics in my mind are, I mean they're important, but they're not everything. I felt good out there. Like I said, I felt very similar to the first half in Seattle when we were in the same type of deal. When we were in the game it was a balanced attack and we were going. You know, so I mean I did feel good out there. I felt comfortable both weeks."

On his confidence factor after the Saints game:

"Yeah I think as a whole, as an offense I think that's something, no question, to face that caliber of a defense. To do what that defense had done all of last year, and even week one against the Vikings, you know, we were very effective at times. Obviously, the turnovers were costly, but very we were effective at times and I think that's something to take away from it, no question."

On whether he instinctively scrambles to his left and tucks the ball away on that side:

"Pretty instinctive for me, you know. I'm going to get the ball away from the defenders, keep it to the boundary side. It's something that we talk about here. [Offensive coordinator] Jimmy [Raye] talks a lot about that to ball carriers. You know, quarterbacks, you don't get put in that situation that often, but it's something that, obviously, we hear and know, especially there, you know, when I was running along the sideline. I didn't know if I was going to end up diving or what was going to happen so I was switching it to my left hand."

On what jumps out to you when you look at the Chiefs defense:

"You know, obviously, with the short week we're still kind of in the process of breaking it all down. They're very different then what we played last week, a 3-4 front, not as complex of pressures, but they're pretty stout up front, especially the 3 down guys, big guys. They have some young guys in the secondary, but they're playing well right now. They're playing good defense and playing good football as a team. They're 2-0 right now, they're confident. I think you can see all that on the film."

On whether you like to see a rookie safety in the secondary:

"Yeah, those are the things you're aware of, for sure. Yeah, the inexperience back there, you know, potentially something to try and take advantage of when you can."

On whether you can see the inexperience when you watch the film:

"I don't know, it's hard to tell. You don't know what's called or what's going on. I think, maybe obviously week one, Monday night, he's going against [San Diego Chargers TE] Antonio Gates quite a bit, as a rookie your first game and you're covering one of the best tight ends in the game. Obviously, that's a big test, and as you can see towards the end of the game they are doubling and tripling him down there in red zone."

On whether you are comfortable throwing to TE Nate Byham:

"I do feel good with Nate out there. I think he's a good football player, we put a lot on him. He's playing fullback, he's doing some new things he's never done, so he kind of just steps in there and does it. I think everyone feels good when he's in there. "

On whether he knew about him before hand:

"He's just kind of a football player, just that same type of thing. He doesn't let the game get to big for him, pretty instinctive type of guy. He just goes out there and plays. You know, I think he obviously puts in the time because he knows what he's doing, and he goes out there and executes it. You know it's a perfect note but I think everyone feels comfortable with the fact that he's going to leave everything out there, he's going to give it everything he has."

On some of the encouraging things that you saw from Monday night:

"Well, I think you need to take the encouraging things and build on them, I think you have to. You know, so much about this league is momentum and its week to week to week and we got to get a win, and we got to get our first one, and then after that we can build off that. But that all starts this week with Kansas City, and that's what we're building on. You take the good things we did from this last week and you learn from the other stuff and you move on."

On your thoughts about being named the 11th smartest athlete in the country:

"You know no idea, I guess I consider myself decent. I do okay for myself. I had no idea though. That's a compliment but I don't know what else to say about that."

On whom he feels is the smartest guy on the team:

"They asked me that when I interviewed for it. No offense to any of my teammates, but I said [C] Eric Heitmann. He's a pretty sharp guy and I consider him to be pretty intelligent."

On whether that was you best game since you have been here:

"In terms of what? I felt really good out there. I think it was for us. Definitely it was a step as far as the two minute goes, we got some good situations in two minute last year but never that caliber - Monday night against Super Bowl champs, you know we have to go down and score and I think we did that well. I think we were pretty efficient on offense besides the turnovers and those aren't little things. To just say ‘Oh, you know we were efficient but the turnovers.' The turnovers really hurt us, especially down there in the red zone. I felt comfortable out there, but like I said, it was a very similar feeling, I felt like most of the game in Seattle."

On some of the things that cause the positive turn around for the offensive line:

"You know, I don't know. I think the one thing, I think those guys definitely got the work load put on them all week. I think they knew going into that game, we talked about it all week, that it was going to start with them, and I think they took that upon themselves. They accepted that challenge and they showed up, and they played really well. Another thing is I think the two rookies got a game under their belt, and got to come home in a home environment and play which was probably a good thing. And just the more they play as a cohesive group, the better they're going to get. I think kind of all those things maybe played into it."