The San Francisco 49ers welcome back an old friend on Sunday when Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs come to town. Smith faced the 49ers last year in the preseason in Kansas City, but this marks his first game visiting San Francisco. The respective team PR departments provide the opposing team's media with their head coach and one or two players for a Q&A via conference call. On Wednesday, the media got Andy Reid in the morning (transcript), and naturally got Alex Smith in the afternoon.
Smith was on the phone for 15 minutes and had plenty to talk about. There were some questions about what it is like preparing to face a defense that includes numerous players he played with for many years. And of course there were plenty of questions about the QB controversy in 2012, and his departure after the season. He expressed no bitterness, and generally answered the questions as we have grown to expect from him over the years. He does not provide a ton of detail, but it's still interesting to hear from the 49ers former starting quarterback.
On Levi's Stadium:
Only [seen it on] TV. Haven't been at the facility since before the trade.
On studying 49ers defense as opponent instead of teammate:
You know, it is and it isn't [interesting]. It's so far removed, I feel like a lot's happened since then, and we played them last year in the preseason, and a lot's gone on then. In the football world, a year and a half is a long time. And also, though, for the guys that are still there. You know, to be watching Justin on tape, and Patrick, and those guys I played so long with. It is funny to be watching it a little bit. But there's also a bunch of new faces, new stadium I've never been to, so a little bit of that kind of a normal deal. But yea, going against some of those guys I played with for quite a while, that's kind of funny.
On perspective as opposition:
It's no different than what I knew then. It's pretty good, pretty stout. It is tough to find much there. They're a stingy defense, physical up front. They're smart, they're well coached. So, certainly a big challenge this week.
On fan reception coming back:
Haven't thought about it, and I guess, no idea. I don't know. So I guess we'll find out.
On past experience preparing him for pressure of KC giving up a lot for him:
Yea, that certainly played a part in it. I think a lot of stuff played into that. I mean even, you know, what happened there at the end of the year in losing my job. A little bit of it, you get to the point, where worrying about anything that is outside of your control, and dwelling on that stuff, is only going to have a negative impact. As much as that stuff is there, good or bad or indifferent, you just try to focus in and eliminate all that clutter and distractions, and just focus on the things you can control. Just go out there and try to be prepared and play good football. I'm certainly in a much better frame of mind to handle the opportunity last year.
On just being the type of QB/person he is, take it or leave it:
I'm definitely more comfortable with who I am as a person and a player. And at the same time, not saying you're stubborn and not join to change. You're constantly working on your weaknesses, and trying to improve. I think you also have a far better understanding of what wins football games from the quarterback position. And for me, it was learning that there are so many little things that went into playing winning football. It's not always the big impressive flow, it's so many of the little things that you do over and over and over again over the course of 60, 70, 80 plays that are winning football. I think I had a far better understanding of that.
On common thread among Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh, Andy Reid:
It's hard to compare any of those guys. You know everybody kind of does it their own way, and has their individual style. It's tough. The common thread between Coach Reid and Coach Harbaugh in the sense that they're both quarterback guys as head coaches. So that's different. You have a head coach that's in your quarterback meetings, and coaching you on the field. I think other than that though it's tough to compare them. Certainly they're all very detailed in how they coach the position. I think success and execution, it certainly comes down to how the players are coached, it's less about Xs and Os at that point.
On playing in Andy Reid offense:
The attitude and the environment he sets as a head coach. He's one of the best teachers that I've been around, in the sense of really teaching the details and smaller things, and developing that, not only in the classroom but on the field. He really creates an environment of cutting it loose, we'll fix mistakes as we go. Coaches coach and players play, and your job is to go out there and be yourself, and play football.
On finishing his business with the 49ers:
I do, to be honest. I really did feel that. I felt like it was kind of complete. I felt like we had rebounded, although it took a lot longer than I ever thought. We got the organization back to where it needed to be, and better than when I came here. So yea, in a sense, I didn't have any regrets when I left.
On any bitterness:
I don't, I don't at all. I was so excited about this opportunity when it happened. Like I told you, I felt like that chapter was done for me, and I was really excited about moving on to this next opportunity. I think because of everything that happened over the course of my career, I was so much more appreciative of how fragile the opportunity is to get to start and play in this game. And for me, I was just full go on it, and I was going to do everything I could to take advantage of it, and run with it, and not look back. So no, no bitterness at all.
On the QB change decision and potential locker room issues:
I think the thing I actively tried to do was be a good teammate, and do what was right. I felt like coaches coach, and they have to make their decisions and do it. And players play and those are things outside of my control. This is a team game and I wasn't going to put myself or my situation ahead of any of that. I know I said that at the time, and I still feel the same way. That no one's bigger than the team. That was certainly my frame of mind.
On Patrick Willis without NaVorro Bowman:
For me, he looks like the same old Patrick. Tremendous speed, runs to the football, such a great back getting to the football. Really good tackler. Doesn't miss many tackles at all, if any. And good recovery speed. Really, really good football player out there on the field.
On competitions with Willis on practice field:
A little bit of. You're kind of going back and forth, and trying to get each other. Trying to outsmart each other, one up each other, and constantly trying to win that battle. And with linebackers, they're right there, you're staring each other in the face. There's certainly some talking at times. Some jabbing back and forth, especially over the years. So definitely a lot of that.
On Harbaugh saying no pre-game hugging or butt-slapping:
I haven't talked to anybody, I haven't given it much thought, no.
On talking to Harbaugh:
I have not talked to coach in quite a while.
On whether 49ers made a mistake trading him:
[Laugh] There's not a good answer to that. I haven't thought about it, and at this point it's not even relevant.
On talking to Kap after the trade:
Yea, Kap and I talked, and sent text messages. It's been a little while as well. It's tough to talk to anybody in the middle of the season.
On A.J. Jenkins:
He's doing well. A.J.'s doing great. Working hard, he's developed a lot over the last year here in the system. So, excited for him,
On improvement as QB:
A lot of it you're getting more reps, you're getting better. It's a whole other coaching staff and way of doing things here. Coach Reid's had a lot of great quarterbacks, and coached a lot of great quarterbacks. It seems like an endless supply of knowledge, and every single day I feel like I try to soak it up and take in something. Just kind of continue on, and the more games you play in and the more practice reps you get, you're constantly learning and trying to get better.
On recent contract extension and creating job security:
In a sense. Maybe just for this year. I think the thing you realize, even when you sign a multi-year deal is you learn how fragile this thing is. It's a what have you done for me lately kind of business. And you have to go out every single week and prove it. And that's the deal. I've played it long enough to know that. The contract extension was nice in a sense that, I didn't feel like I had to go out there, this year was done, and there wasn't that unknown at the end of the year. But at the same time, like I said, I really feel like every week you gotta go out there and re-prove yourself.
On reception in Kansas City compared to arriving in San Francisco:
It's tough to compare, too, and I don't totally want to get into that, either. Different circumstances, you go from being the number one pick and coming in to a team that there's a lot of expectations and things that come with that, and you're younger and you haven't played any ball. Coming here was a completely different deal, traded, definitely in a different position in life. Tough to compare the differences.
Does he own a Royals hat, worn it in front cameras?
I do own a Royals hat, yes. I've worn it around. I haven't done the post-game thing quite like I did there. I got my AL and NL thing going.
Do Royals provide a boost?
Certainly. We're right next door to each other. Kauffman [Stadium]'s right next door. Those guys come out to our practices and they've had us over for a bunch of games. I was out earlier this year to throw out a first pitch. It's been great. And the city and some of the other fans are the same. Feeding off one another, and especially having the last two days, back-to-back, to go from Monday night to the wild card game last night, hosting it. Pretty cool vibe around the city right now.
On spending so much time at the facility at KC and preparations:
I didn't ramp things up any more than I've always done. It was a new offense and I was determined to learn it as soon as I could. The offseason rules continue to change, and make it more and more difficult, so you try to make the most of the time you've got here. And certainly last year coming in, new staff, and being new to the system, I was trying to pick it up as soon as I could.
On 49ers coaching staff knowing his tendencies:
[Laugh] No. No, no, no. Completely different system. As a quarterback, you have to learn to run a system, and run an offense, and execute plays. And it's a completely different playbook, so I don't know how much they could get off of that.
On Travis Kelce being a unique target:
He is. Unique talent. We got him last year, and he had the injury, and he's worked hard to come back. Really feel good about the tight ends in general; the balance that we have out of that personnel. I think those guys do a great job in the run game, as well as the pass game. Travis is a unique talent, put the ball in his hands. Can do a lot with the football. He definitely can be a matchup problem.