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Alex Smith went 3 of 7 today with an interception, and everyone would agree that he's had a rough week on the practice field.
What hasn't been made public until today is that Smith has been having a devastating week off the field. On Sunday, Smith learned that his best friend, David Edwards, had committed suicide in San Diego.
The two had been friends since they were 14. Edwards, 24, took the same AP classes as Smith at Helix High. As a senior, he was the principal's assistant at Helix, meaning that Edwards and Alex's father, Helix principal Doug Smith, also were very close.
"He had a relationship with everyone in our family," Alex's mother, Pam, said today on the telephone. "He was at the draft with us. The first couple of years Alex was with the 49ers, anywhere Alex would go, David would go with him - the Super Bowl, everything."
In fact, the Edwards family requested that David's service be held in the Smith's backyard.
That service will be on Friday. Alex Smith will fly back for it and miss Friday's practice.
He admitted today that dealing with the news from home as well as his day-to-day duties with the 49ers has been difficult. After graduating from UCLA, Edwards was one of the friends who lived with Smith in his Los Gatos home. Edwards left last year to move back to San Diego.
"I talked to him on Saturday, our day off," Smith said. "I asked him if he wanted to come up for Saturday's game. He was going to come up."

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Smith's loss is one of many to have hit 49ers' players in the last year and a half. Running back Frank Gore lost his mother, Liz, in September and then was dealt another blow when friend and former teammate Sean Taylor was murdered in December. Mike Nolan and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky both lost their fathers during the season.

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It remains to be seen how Smith will be used in Saturday's game. Mike Nolan today said the rotation won't be determined until this afternoon, although the 49ers will not announce it until tomorrow. I would be shocked if anyone other than J.T. O'Sullivan started. Today Smith split second-team repetitions with Shaun Hill, the first time Hill has received any 11-on-11 snaps since Aug. 6. That may be an indication that Smith's absence this week will mean more game time for Hill on Saturday. All will be revealed tomorrow ....

-- Matt Barrows

MATTHEW BARROWS

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.

June 2009

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