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Who’s your caddie? Alex Smith returns to the Bay Area Sunday to take on his one-time mentor

SANTA CLARA – Alex Smith could have moved on at various points during his eight-year stint with the 49ers. But he chose to stay because, as a one-time No. 1 pick in the draft, he felt a responsibility to the then-struggling franchise.

On Sunday he'll return to find his former team in a billion-dollar new stadium, with a loaded roster and dealing with the weighty expectations of a Super Bowl contender. In that way, Smith said, his 49ers mission has been fulfilled even if he is no longer wearing their uniform.

"I felt like it was complete. I felt like we had rebounded," Smith, now the Chiefs quarterback, said during a conference call on Wednesday. "It took a lot longer than I thought, (but) got the organization back where it needed to be and better than when I came here. So yeah, in a sense, definitely. Didn’t have any regrets when I left.”

Smith said he's flown over Levi's Stadium – he and his family have remained in the Bay Area in the offseason – but has never visited. And he didn't know what to expect from the crowd when he first takes the field Sunday.

Vernon Davis said he is moving around better than he was after Sunday’s game but that his back spasms have not gone away entirely. He missed Wednesday’s practice and declared himself “day to day.”

Davis left Sunday’s game after a short reception. He said he experienced “sharp pain” in his back but that doctors have told him the injury is not severe.

Meanwhile, right tackle Anthony Davis also missed the practice session, but the knee injury he suffered Sunday does not appear to be long-term. Davis was observed walking quickly through the locker room and into the training room. He did not have a limp and his knee was not wrapped.

Justin Smith (veteran’s day off) missed Wednesday’s session as he always does while Tramaine Brock (toe) worked on a side field with the team’s strength coach. It appears as if Perrish Cox will start his fourth straight contest at cornerback.

Paul Kitagaki Jr./ The Bee
Antoine Bethea intercepted this pass intended for receiver Jeremy Maclin.

Antoine Bethea made No. 100 count.

The veteran safety, who making his 100th consecutive start Sunday, was named the NFC defensive player of the week for his role in holding the Eagles offense without a point

Bethea was questionable to play in the game due to an ankle injury that occurred late during the week of practice. He not only started, he forced a fumble from Eagles tight end Zach Ertz and intercepted a deep pass from Nick Foles.

His biggest play may have been a tackle of LeSean McCoy late in the game. Bethea swooped in to knock down the Philadelphia running back at San Francisco's 1 1/2-yard line. If the Eagles had scored, they would have taken a late-game lead.

Eagles 49ers Football
Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, right, greets Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) after an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. The 49ers won 26-21.
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Alex Smith will return to Santa Clara for the first time since his 2013 trade, this time to lead the 2-2 Chiefs against the 2-2 49ers

Colin Kaepernick today credited Alex Smith for helping keep the 49ers locker room stable during what could have been a rocky transition from Smith to Kaepernick during the 2012 season.

“One of the classiest people I’ve ever been around,” Kaepernick said. “Just all-around great guy. I don’t think anyone could have handled it any better than he did.”

Smith was in the midst of his best statistical season with the 49ers in 2012, and after eight seasons he had built strong friendships and on-field rapports with players, including tight end Vernon Davis and the offensive line, notably left tackle Joe Staley.

The way Smith handled the transition seemed to set a tone for the rest of locker room.

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A.J. Jenkins averages 12 snaps a game with the Chiefs. he has four catches over the first four games.

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith isn’t the only player the 49ers shipped east to Kansas City last year.

San Francisco swapped wide receivers with the Chiefs, obtaining Jonathan Baldwin in exchange for A.J. Jenkins, the team’s first-round pick in 2012. Baldwin currently is looking for work after the 49ers released him in the offseason. Jenkins is No. 4 on Kansas City’s wide-receiver depth chart.

He has four catches for 16 yards this season and is averaging 12 snaps a game. He played 24 snaps in Week 2 loss to Denver, caught all three passes that went his way and finished with 16 yards.

“A.J.’s done a nice job for us,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said on a conference call. “He does a whole lot of things for us in a lot of different areas. So he was a welcome addition.”

LM Otero/ AP
Running back Carlos Hyde is one of the four players Trent Baalke parlayed out of the Alex Smith trade to Kansas City. A fifth player could be coming in May.

The 49ers' strategy for sustainability involves loading up on draft picks and always having an influx of young players who can replace expensive, soon-to-be free-agent talent. Last year, Trent Baalke appeared to hit the jackpot when he traded Alex Smith to the Chiefs for not one but two early-round draft picks.

How have those picks panned out? You be the judge.

The first draft pick was the No. 34 selection in the 2013 draft. Baalke traded down from that spot and obtained the 40th (2nd round) and 216 (7th round) picks in that year's draft as well as the 77th pick (3rd round) in the 2014 draft. He later packaged a third-round pick and the 216th pick to move ahead to the 88th pick in the third round. The results:

No. 40, DE Tank Carradine

Penalties No Fun League Football
Vern Steinman, File/AP Photo
FILE - In this Sept. 24, 2000, file photo, San Francisco 49ers' Terrell Owens celebrates his second quarater touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys from the center of the field in Irving, Texas. Celebrations that used to be part of the game are under increased scrutiny and, though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever.
Penalties No Fun League Football
Barry Gutierrez, File/AP Photo
FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2011, file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) bows his head on the sidelines after scoring a touchdown against the New York Jets in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Denver. Celebrations that used to be part of the game are under increased scrutiny and, though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever.

Dancing Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, shuffling Ickey Woods and the group high-fiving Fun Bunch? Their entertaining touchdown celebrations would be illegal in today's NFL.

Though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever.

Take, for example, Husain Abdullah's drop to his knees after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. It threw the referees for a loop — and caused them to throw a flag. In their eyes, the Chiefs defensive back violated the language in Rule 12, Section 3(d) that states "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground."

But Abdullah is a devout Muslim, who had always vowed he'd fall to his knees if he ever reached the end zone. Critics pointed out that many players have knelt in Christian player and weren't penalized, most notably Tim Tebow, who's one-knee genuflection became a meme. After further review, the NFL said since it was part of a religious expression, and Abdullah should not have been flagged.

For years, football fans have bemoaned the rule barring NFL home games that haven't sold out from being televised in the local market.

Well, you can't blame the government anymore.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to end the 1975 rule with a push from its chairman.

"We at the FCC shouldn't be complicit in preventing sports fans from watching their favorite teams on TV," said Chairman Tom Wheeler. "It's time to sack the sports blackout rule."

See what The Bee's Matt Barrows had to say about the 49ers following their critical victory and the aftermath that included strong criticism of coach Jim Harbaugh.

Access the live chat from mobile devices here.

Live chat: Another big week for 49ers, 11 a.m. Sept. 30

Paul Kitagaki Jr./ The Bee
Colin Kaepernick’s favorite target? That’s Michael Crabtree, who leads the 49ers in pass targets through four games despite not playing as many snaps as Anquan Boldin.

The elder statesmen of the 49ers' offense and defense, Frank Gore and Justin Smith, have played fewer snaps through four games than at this point last year.

For Smith, 35, the decreased workload is somewhat of a surprise considering he was dealing with a shoulder injury last season and is healthy again – and playing very well – this year. He's played 190 snaps this year vs. 213 last year. The 190 plays is 74.5 percent of the team's total defensive snaps through four games.

Gore, meanwhile, is just off of last year's pace. He's been on the field 179 plays as opposed to 187 plays in the first four games of 2013. This season has begun similarly to last year for the 49ers running back in that he was lightly utilized in a game (vs. Seattle last year; vs. Arizona this year) before having a big game in Week 4.

Gore rushed 20 times for 153 yards in a win over St. Louis last year to bring the 49ers' record to 2-2. He ran 24 times for 119 yards Sunday in a win that brought the 49ers' record to 2-2. He has 59 carries for 258 yards this year; he had 61 carries for 295 yards last year at this time.

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Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo
San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, left, congratulating running back Frank Gore, denies reports that his players are turning against him.
Paul Kitagaki Jr./ The Bee
Jim Harbaugh on the sideline with Colin Kaepernick during Sunday’s win over the Eagles.

Jim Harbaugh had a strong reaction to Deion Sanders’ comments that the 49ers’ head coach is losing the locker room and his players want him out.

“Personally, I feel that’s a bunch of crap,” Harbaugh said at his news conference today. The coach also addressed other anonymous reports about discontent in the organization.

“If someone has a good story to tell, they want to put their name to it,” he said. “If you had a good story to tell, you’d put your name to it. If I had a good story to tell, I’d want to put my name to it. So I don’t put a lot of credibility into the unnamed source.”

Sanders’ comments came Sunday on the league-owned NFL Network. “They want him out,” he said of the 49ers’ players. “They’re not on the same page.”

G5F1CAHH6.4Senior Photographer
Paul Kitagaki Jr./
Coach Jim Harbaugh talks to quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) and running back Frank Gore during a timeout. The 49ers led the NFL in delay-of-game penalties with 10 this season.
Ron Ennis/ MCT
Patrick Willis and Eric Reid -- choir boys when it came to penalties last season -- combined for six flags Sunday in Arizona

Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers must do a better job managing the clock one day after the team committed two delay-of-game penalties and ran out of timeouts with more than three minutes remaining.

“That’s something we have to keep addressing and stay on top of,” Harbaugh said Monday. “There were a few too many times when the play clock was ticking down close to zero. We’ve all got to do a better job getting back into the huddle, getting the plays in quickly and early, and managing the clock.”

It’s not surprising that the 49ers lead the league in delay-of-game penalties after four weeks. They had more than any other team last year, too.

In 2013, teams averaged 4.6 delay-of-game fouls over their 16-game seasons, according to the NFL. The 49ers had 11. The only other team that came close to that number was Tampa Bay, with nine. Three teams – the Panthers, Packers and Patriots – had one.

For 49ers blog posts before May 2014, go to the blog archives


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

49ers Blog Archives

Note: The 49ers blog switched blog platforms in May 2014. All posts after the switch are found here. Older posts are available using the list below.

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