49ers Blog and Q&A

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August 10, 2009
Alex Smith battles Hill and hill

Why was Alex Smith sitting atop a hill while the rest of his teammates practiced? That's what we were wondering during the 49ers' afternoon session. The explanation, courtesy of Smith, goes something like this: Earlier in the practice, there was a fumble. Actually, there were two. Tight end Joe John Finley coughed up the ball following a catch while running back Thomas Clayton also put it on the ground at the end of a run.

At that point, Mike Singletary called the offense together and said that the next person who turns the ball over has to watch the rest of practice from the hill. That person was Smith, but it wasn't exactly a bone-headed error. Smith was trying to hit Vernon Davis when he ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. The ball was batted around a bit, and cornerback Marcus Hudson eventually came up with the pick. Singletary couldn't back away from his decree, so Smith walked past a bunch of befuddled reporters, climbed Mt. Pain, as the hill has been dubbed, and sat there until the end of practice.

08102009128 from http://sparrow280.vox.com/

The whole episode had a bit of a comic feel to hit. At one point, receiver Brandon Jones, his right shoulder in a sling, sat next to Smith. They were later joined by the starting offensive line - Joe Staley, Tony Wragge, Eric Heitmann, Chilo Rachal and Adam Snyder.

"You can't turn the ball over," Smith said. "That's the bottom line. That's the point coach is trying to make, and it's the right point. You lose ball games like that."

When Smith finally climbed down from the hill he was greeted by a smiling Singletary.

"I don't think he intended for a batted ball, tip around, for that to be the scenario," Smith said. "From a quarterback perspective, what I think he's really talking about it decision making. ... If you're trying to avoid d-linemen hands - good luck. I don't know how successful you're going to be."

Speaking of hills, Shaun Hill was sharp in the afternoon practice, connecting on 12 of 13 passes. Damon Huard, meanwhile, filled in for Smith. He was 4-5, including a nice pass over the middle to Davis.

Rookie cornerbacks Terrail Lambert (hip) and Carlos Thomas (hamstring) sat out the afternoon practice but were not expected to miss much time. Takeo Spikes, Isaac Bruce and Justin Smith were given the afternoon off.

Smith's lonely vigil added to yet another weird day in Santa Clara. The news choppers, which buzzed incessantly last week due to a stranded porpoise in a nearby slough, were back today because a ride at Great America theme park broke down, leaving two dozen people dangling for four hours. Let's hope they used the restroom before getting on ...

-- Matt Barrows

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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.

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