Alex Smith has a new view this season -- literally


Alex Smith has a new view this season -- literally

SANTA CLARA -- Alex Smith has a new view on the quarterback position from his first six years in the NFL.Literally.And he has a much better grip than earlier in his career, too.Smith's view on the field is more unobstructed that previous seasons -- dating back to his college days at Utah, when he wanted a little more face protection because of the volume of hits he absorbed. Now, he has one fewer horizontal bar on his facemask.

In the past, the top bar on his facemask came up to the bridge of his nose:2010

Now, the top bar runs lower just below the tip of his nose:2011

"I've been thinking about changing it for a while," Smith told CSNBayArea.com of the new facemask he debuted at the beginning of training camp. "It's a visibility thing. That goes back to college. I wore it in college because I ran so much. I just stuck with it. I've been thinking about changing it for a few years now and I finally did it."Has it helped?"There are less bars," Smith said. "It's different. I notice the difference. I have less stuff in my face and my eyes."
RELATED: Alex Smith 2011 game logs Alex Smith career stats
Remember the early days of Smith's career when his hand size was being scrutinized because the ball would often slip out of his grasp like a wet bar of soap?Back in those days, the NFL rules allowed for the home team to provide the footballs for both teams. So Smith would show up for road games anxious to find out what kind of footballs awaited him.From that time in his career, Smith developed a habit that remains as part of his game-day routine.Every time there's a timeout or a change of possession, Smith is thrown a football near the sideline that he maintains in his hands until he tosses it aside to begin the next 49ers offensive possession."It goes back to what the NFL rules were when I first got into the league, when you didn't get to travel with your own footballs," Smith said. "So whoever was the opponent that week, the balls could be brand new. So I got into the habit of whatever the type of ball was, I'd get that type of ball on the sideline so I had it."Whatever I felt the ball was like from the first series, I'd go get a ball that was similar to it and just have it there with me. You'd never know. You'd practice all week with broken-in balls -- ones that were worn in -- and then the day of the game you'd be playing in St. Louis and it would be a ball right out of the box. Those were the balls they supplied."Now, each team is allowed to supply footballs for their own offense. During the week, the 49ers rub the sheen off new footballs with a mud similar to what Major League umpires use to get baseballs ready for game action."Our QB balls are similar to the game balls, so that's what I grab now," Smith said.Smith lost 13 fumbles in his first 30 NFL starts. In his past 36 starts, Smith has turned the ball over just five times on fumbles.Smith posted career-best numbers in helping the 49ers win the NFC West with a 13-3 record. He is the main reason the 49ers tied an NFL record for fewest turnovers (10) in the regular season. His vision and feel for the game coincidence or not -- are two of the main reasons behind the turnaround.

Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals


Former 49ers quarterback takes over under center for Cardinals

TEMPE, Ariz. — Blaine Gabbert will get his first start for the Arizona Cardinals when they play the Texans in Houston on Sunday.

Coach Bruce Arians announced the decision after Friday's practice.

Drew Stanton, the starter the last two games, bruised his knee early in the Thursday night loss to Seattle last week. He stayed in the game but has been limited in practice all week.

Arians said it will be a game-time decision as to whether Stanton or recently signed Matt Barkley would be Gabbert's backup.

Gabbert will be making his 41st NFL start. He has a 9-31 record. He signed with Arizona last offseason and was the third quarterback until Carson Palmer broke his arm against the Los Angeles Rams in London and was lost for the season.

49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?


49ers Mailbag: Should Shanahan give up play-calling?

Believe it or not, the 49ers’ offense is improved from last season.

The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL in 2016, averaging 308.1 yards per game. Although the offense is producing just a little better (325.9 yards per game), their ranking this season has shot up to 21st in the league.

The 49ers have had a different head coach and different person running the offense in each of the past four seasons, so their continuity has been severely lacking.

Next season, the 49ers should finally have carryover from one season to the next.

The direction of the offense is one of the topics addressed on this edition of 49ers Mailbag (questions were submitted via Facebook):

Now that we have Jimmy G do you see 49ers getting an offensive coordinator or will it still be Kyle calling the plays? (Julio Orozco)
I'm not sure why the arrival of Jimmy Garoppolo would have any impact on the 49ers’ offensive structure, but in any event, the answer is a resounding, “No.”

Kyle Shanahan has been hailed as one of the best offensive coordinators in the NFL. The reason he was hired as 49ers head coach was, in large part, because of the success he achieved while designing offenses and calling plays.

Why would he give that up? It makes no sense.

Rob Demovsky of ESPN this week identified the 32 primary play-callers. There are 18 NFL head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Twelve of those coaches call their own plays.

Shanahan has a staff of assistant coaches on whom he leans. Passing game specialist Mike LaFleur and quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello are closely involved in working with Shanahan on the passing game, while running game specialist Mike McDaniel, offensive line coach John Benton and running backs coach Bobby Turner spearhead the involvement in the ground game.

But, make no mistake, it is Shanahan who calls the shots. And that's the way it should be. If Shanahan stepped aside as his own offensive coordinator, he would be diminishing his biggest strength as a coach.

What do you see happing with the Hyde situation? We drafted Joe Williams and Breida seems to be a bright spot. There’s a lot of talk about Barkley from Penn State with that high 1st rounder. (Manny Hinojos)
There does not seem to be any movement toward a long-term extension for Hyde. It is getting to the point in the season where it makes a lot more sense for Hyde to play out his contract and hit the open market.

There is no question in my mind the 49ers like Hyde a lot. He has scored some major points with the organization for his performance on the field and how he has responded off the field.

GM John Lynch loved it when Hyde came to the defense of quarterback C.J. Beathard, tussled with Arizona lineman Frostee Rucker and got ejected from the game.

That said, the 49ers are not going to break the bank for Hyde. A multi-year agreement has to come at the right price. My personal feeling is that running backs are luxury pieces when the remainder of a team’s roster -- especially the offensive line -- is set.

Shanahan and his father, Mike Shanahan, and Turner (the assistant coach who served on both of their staffs) have achieved a lot of success without investing heavily in running backs. That’s why I think the 49ers would be best-served by investing elsewhere and using another mid-round draft pick on a running back.

With Joshua Garnett coming back next season how aggressive will Lynch and Shanahan be in trying to get guards this offseason? (David Hartless)
Garnett is not a particularly good fit for this offensive scheme. The presence of Garnett can help increase the competition next offseason, but I do not believe he is being penciled in as a starter.

The 49ers will certainly be aggressive in an attempt to upgrade the guard positions. Currently, Laken Tomlinson and Brandon Fusco are the starters. Neither will be assured a starting job when the offseason begins.

The 49ers did not see enough from Garnett to determine he has a future with the organization, but he will be given the opportunity to come back healthy and prove himself.

Is Eric Reid in long-term plans? (Grant Rasmussen)
I do not believe so. I think the 49ers would like their starting safeties next season to be Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt – with Adrian Colbert as the front-runner for the No. 3 job.

The 49ers can also be expected to add a player or two in free agency, as well as the draft, to provide a competitive environment in the offseason. The 49ers seemed to telegraph their intention with Reid when they moved him to linebacker with Ward and Tartt remaining as the starting safeties.

That position change lasted about a week, as Ward’s injury prompted the team to move Reid back to safety. Reid is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It's entirely possible there will not be a big market for him, but I do not believe the 49ers are going to be ultra-competitive in retaining him on the open market.