SANTA CLARA Jim Harbaugh said Friday he sees a competitive advantage in keeping his starting quarterback for Sunday a secret, and even though one of his players let the information slip earlier in the day, the 49ers' coach remained mum on the topic.
"It's just not something we think is an advantage for us to talk about," Harbaugh said. "And you may have your opinions on it. It's unorthodox. So be it. You can call me names if you want, or make sport of me. But, that's the way we're going to go about it."
Earlier in the day, safety Donte Whitner said on "The Dan Patrick Show" that the players were under the impression Colin Kaepernick would start against the New Orleans Saints.
That bolsters a series of reports throughout the week that pointed to Kaepernick making his second consecutive start. The 49ers list veteran Alex Smith as questionable on the injury report this week.
Smith, who is recovering from a concussion suffered Nov. 11, passed the so-called "contact test" Friday, and Harbaugh said that if he remains symptom-free today, he will receive his final clearance to play.
Smith's symptoms returned last weekend, but Harbaugh said he's been symptom-free since Tuesday. Smith has practiced this week, but Kaepernick has received most of the snaps.
No bounty talk How much are the 49ers talking about the Saints' bounty scandal this week?
There's been barely a peep because of the team's own quarterback drama and the fact that the central villain in the bounty affair, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, won't be on the sideline Sunday. Williams left the Saints in the offseason and then was suspended indefinitely by the NFL.
"I don't think there's any resentment whatsoever," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. "What was said in the past is just that it's the past. It's irrelevant."
Tight end Vernon Davis said the infamous speech Williams made before the teams met in the playoffs last Jan. 14, in which Williams targeted specific body parts of players like Smith, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree never got a lot of attention from the 49ers.
"It's talking," Davis said.
The 49ers were more upset with what some considered a breach in exhibition season etiquette last year when, in the first game of the Harbaugh era, Williams blitzed their still-jelling offensive line mercilessly and ended up sacking Smith and Kaepernick six times total.
It was the first game Kaepernick played in the NFL. He threw two interceptions, and the 49ers managed only three points.
"Bad memories," Kaepernick said. "It was an all-out fest when we played them last time. Hopefully, we'll have a better performance."
In Williams' place Sunday will be a familiar foe, Steve Spagnuolo, who coached the St. Louis Rams for the last three seasons. That means the 49ers, who will visit St. Louis on Dec. 2, will have watched Rams footage in three of four weeks by the time that game arrives.
"It's a little bit of a hybrid," Roman said of the Saints' defense under Spagnuolo. "They've kept some of what they did last year, and then they've combined it with some of what the Rams have done. It's very multiple. It's a lot of different looks, and they've gotten better as the year went on. They've got really good players."