Harbaugh maintains suspense

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6C
Last Modified: Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012 - 7:14 pm

SANTA CLARA – Jim Harbaugh has watched each of his two quarterbacks lead the 49ers to wins in hostile, road environments – Alex Smith in the season opener at Green Bay's Lambeau Field in September and Colin Kaepernick on Sunday at the New Orleans Superdome.

So which one gets the ball Sunday when the 49ers travel to St. Louis?

Harbaugh is still mum on the subject, though he did say Monday he will announce his starting quarterback by midweek so the players don't have to face constant questions about the situation.

"Alex Smith is our starting quarterback. He has not done anything to lose that job," Harbaugh said. "In fact, he's playing at a very high level. Also, Colin Kaepernick, you can't categorize him as a backup quarterback, because he's started games and played very well in those games."

Harbaugh clearly is tiring of all the talk about his quarterbacks, even if much of the drama is of his own creation – and he refuses to categorize it as a "controversy," saying he has two capable guys in the mix each week. He reiterated Monday that anything is possible this week, even using both quarterbacks in the game.

"The guys will be hammered," Harbaugh said. "You go to Colin, you go to Alex, 'Should you be the starter?' He's got no good answer for you. He says, 'Yes, I should be the starter' – we're talking either one – and you look like you're just building up yourself. If you say no, then they hammer you because you don't think you should be the starter.

"Then the people, so-called subject matter experts, who talk about, 'You should be making a fuss about it or a stink about it; you shouldn't be that accommodating,' it sends a completely wrong message, to me, for young athletes out there, or high school quarterbacks, where their coach is trying to tell them it's about the team and all of us working together. So that one gets me upset. That's not what our two guys are about."

The NFC West-leading 49ers (8-2-1) have the second-best record in the NFC behind Atlanta as they prepare for the Rams. The game will mean plenty for both teams after their 24-24 tie Nov. 11.

"I think it starts with this week, this game, what gives our team the best chance to win this game, like it would at any position," Harbaugh said. "So in a unique situation, you have two quarterbacks that are playing at a very high level. One's your captain, your starting quarterback. The other has played great football the last three football games."

Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, hardly looked happy on the sideline Sunday. Last week, he said the 49ers have a good problem with him and Kaepernick able to lead the team to victory, and he plans to remain positive.

"He's a class act all the way. Team player. That's why he has been voted captain by our players," Harbaugh said. "They're great team guys. They're great example guys. We need them both. Both have played extremely well."

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