SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Coverage of the San Francisco 49ers

Harbaugh's Words Put Focus Back on QBs

Starting spot not 'clear-cut yet' between Smith and Kaepernick, he says, opening floodgates to speculation about a quarterback controversy

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Getty Images.

    Funny what just a few little words will start.

    In the aftermath of the 49ers’ 24-3 exhibition loss in New Orleans Friday night -- when San Francisco quarterbacks Alex Smith and rookie Colin Kaepernick were constantly pressured and pummeled by the Saints’ blitzing defense – head coach Jim Harbaugh delivered some semantic sparks Saturday that ignited talk of a quarterback controversy.

    Some headlines that followed:

    • “Good-bye New Orleans, hello again 49ers QB competition”  (Mercury News)
    • “Smith, Kaepernick in open competition for Niners’ QB job” (NFL.com)
    • “Harbaugh: 49ers QB competition remains in flux” (ESPN.com)

    What Harbaugh said Saturday was that neither Smith, who started vs. the Saints, or Kaepernick has locked up the job. Those chances will come with the rest of training camp and three more exhibitions, including this Saturday night against the Raiders, before a starter is named before the Sept. 11 season opener vs. Seattle.

    “So far, it hasn’t had a chance to be clear-cut, yet,” Harbaugh said during a conference call. “We’ll continue to practice. I don’t want those guys worried about it. I want them practicing and working and not worrying, and it’ll unfold.”

    Neither quarterback had a chance to show what he could do Friday against New Orleans’ blitz, which sacked Smith twice and Kaepernick four times.

    Though Smith completed just two of seven passes for 10 yards, he’s still the starter and the guy Harbaugh gave a nod to all the way back in April when he said: “If I’m a betting man, I’m betting on Alex Smith.”

    The fact Smith didn’t put up good numbers vs. New Orleans, Harbaugh said, wasn’t necessarily a reflection on him.

    “No, I don’t think he had an opportunity,” Harbaugh told reporters. “I thought he handled it as well as anybody could have.”