Alex Smith Ready To Lead

Smith ready for a better outing against Vikings

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    All the spotlight Sunday at Candlestick Park will be on Brett Favre. And that's perfectly fine with San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith.

     Smith is content to quietly go about his business this preseason to make sure he's prepared come Sept. 12, the day of the 49ers' season opener at Seattle.

    Smith had a forgettable start in last Sunday's 37-17 victory at Indianapolis in which David Carr, his backup and fellow former No. 1 draft pick, and No. 3 QB Nate Davis rallied the Niners to 34 straight points.

     Smith, who was promoted to starter last Oct. 25 and handed the reins this season, was 3 of 9 for 37 yards and managed only two first downs for a 7.4 quarterback rating. He knows that won't cut it for a team that is desperate to get back to the postseason following a seven-year drought.

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    Smith and tight end Vernon Davis miscommunicated on a play that could have been a 47-yard touchdown pass. That was just one example of how things didn't click.

    "I felt really good. It's funny, for as good as I felt, it's probably as good as you could ever feel with a QB rating of seven or something," Smith said. "It didn't necessarily equate to anything. I saw things really well. I think the one pass is obviously the one we're all talking about, the Vernon one. But everything else I saw clearly. So I felt like I was relaxed out there, knew what I was getting and reacted to it throwing the ball.

    "I've got to finish, we've all got to finish in order to really take that to the next level of consistency. Otherwise, you're going to have these ups and downs like we had last year."

     Favre is set to play one or two series -- about 10 snaps in all -- for the Vikings after the 40-year-old quarterback just rejoined the team Wednesday.    

    Smith hasn't had his full arsenal available because Davis and second-year receiver Michael Crabtree have been nursing nagging injuries, and David Baas is still figuring things out as fill-in center while starter Eric Heitmann recovers from a broken left leg.

    "I think with Alex, it's just a matter of him continuing to get in a groove with the guys that we have," coach Mike Singletary said. "Obviously, he would want Crabtree on the field, you'd want Vernon Davis on the field, but they're not there so you're not going to sit over there and whine about it. You're going to go out there and practice and try to get better. There are a lot of things that he can do as a quarterback to get better that have nothing to do with Vernon and Crabtree."

    Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye doesn't put too much stock in Smith's preseason numbers. He's more concerned with making sure the offense gets on the same page before the games really count.

    Raye can see the strides Smith has made, many of which are intangibles.

    "I think the game, the pace visually and mentally, has slowed down for him now," Raye said. "I think he's comfortable with what he's seeing and what the calls are. I would expect as he builds toward the start of the championship season that he'll hit the ground running. I think it would be asinine to judge a quarterback in an exhibition season, based on the idea of people and plays and changes that are in and out and not a gam-plan situation."

    Still, Raye would like better playmaking than last week, when Michael Robinson fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, the 49ers had to punt twice in their initial four possessions and committed two turnovers.

     "We've all got to go out there and do it and continue to build on that," Smith said. "I guess I look back on all our plays with the first group, 14, 15 plays. Didn't finish, didn't finish anything is kind of what I looked at. ... We missed opportunities because of that and I think in the NFL you don't get a lot of second chances in games like that."

     Smith knows plenty well from frustrating situations and tough losses last season. The Niners, who finished 8-8, followed a 3-1 start by losing four straight and five of six. They also dropped six straight road games, five in a row by a combined 19 points, before winning their season finale at St. Louis.

     Raye is eager to see progress from the first-team offense in the next two exhibition games -- and that, of course, begins with Smith's play under center.
       

     "You don't want to go into the start of the league season not having made first downs, not having converted on third downs, wondering are we going to, if this going to turn around when the season starts -- because now you're in a hope situation rather than an expectation situation," Raye said. "What you'd like to get done, as they play 15 plays, or a quarter, or 30 plays, or two halves, you'd like for them to have some success so they can realize what they're doing in training camp, all the time and energy they put in and headed toward their league season that they're in a position to go play, rather than wondering if it's going to come together."