Nationals

Harbaugh: 49ers could mix and match quarterbacks

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Harbaugh: 49ers could mix and match quarterbacks

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Alex Smith is supportive of Colin Kaepernick's success, even if the second-year pro takes Smith's starting job as 49ers quarterback.

``If you can't be happy for your teammate's success you're playing the wrong sport. Go play tennis or golf or something,'' Smith said Wednesday. ``That's ridiculous, I think. That doesn't belong in team sports, in my opinion. It's the quarterback position. It gets a lot of attention. We're going to get talked about.''

Smith plans to fight for his job once he is fully healthy, and he had yet to be medically cleared Wednesday after missing Monday night's 32-7 rout of the Bears recovering from a concussion.

Yet coach Jim Harbaugh said that once Smith is available, the QB for the NFC West-leading Niners (7-2-1) could change week to week, and even during the course of a game. Harbaugh gave no indication when he would select his No. 1 for Sunday's game at New Orleans (5-5).

``People are probably drooling all over themselves because they have something to talk about,'' Harbaugh said. ``We'll let it play out. I wouldn't expect an announcement today or any timeline on that. We'll get that to you.''

Harbaugh underwent a follow-up evaluation for his irregular heartbeat Tuesday and said, ``believe we've got that one licked.'' He has quit chewing tobacco and given up the four or five Diet Cokes he was drinking daily after doctors encouraged him to improve his diet and decrease his caffeine intake. Harbaugh underwent a cardiovert procedure last Thursday.

``Zero,'' he said of soda and dipping. ``Cold turkey.''

He swears he's had no headaches as he moves off caffeine. But picking his quarterback for Sunday's game at the Superdome very well could give him one.

Smith completed 18 of 19 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a Monday night win Oct. 29 at Arizona for a passer rating of 157.1. Smith then sustained a concussion in the second quarter of a 24-24 tie against St. Louis on Nov. 11. He even threw a touchdown pass with blurred vision six plays after taking the hit doctors believe caused his injury.

Kaepernick went 16 for 23 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and an impressive passer rating of 133.1 in his first NFL start Monday against Chicago. The second-round draft pick out of Nevada in 2011 hardly seemed fazed by football's big stage. He directed scoring drives on the Niners' initial four possessions and completed 12 of his first 14 passes, with a 57-yard throw to Kyle Williams that set up Vernon Davis' 3-yard TD on the next play.

Harbaugh rated Kaepernick's debut start as ``A-plus-plus.''

``Whatever coach says goes,'' running back Frank Gore said of who might be handing him the ball. ``We've got two great quarterbacks on the team. We're happy that we've got two good quarterbacks. Whoever coach names, that's who we've got to roll with. ... I'm happy we've got two quarterbacks who can play and lead our team to victory. That's what you want.''

Smith said he and Kaepernick have spoken frequently in recent days, and both want what's best for the team moving forward.

``We've always been on each other's side, we've always supported each other,'' Kaepernick said. ``We're going to keep doing that.''

When asked if he has earned another start, he said that was up to Harbaugh.

The New Orleans defense is preparing for both. The Saints were impressed by Kaepernick's prime-time performance, but also have painful memories of Smith's sensational night in a 36-32 victory against favored New Orleans in the NFC divisional playoffs last January.

``There's not much of a difference between him and Alex Smith,'' Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins said. ``They're both very athletic, they throw the ball. We saw Kaepernick has a big arm. He can make all the throws. And the offense ran the same with him. So we can prepare the same for both of them.''

Competing for his job is nothing new for the 28-year-old Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick.

Smith took over as 49ers starter midway through 2009 and was entrenched as the No. 1 heading into 2010. After separating his non-throwing left shoulder at Carolina, former coach Mike Singletary turned to 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith for the next five games - even after Alex Smith was healthy again. Troy Smith went 3-2, then it was Alex Smith's turn again for two games, including a commanding win over eventual 2010 West champion Seattle.

After a flop at San Diego, Singletary turned back to Troy Smith for a must-win game with the Rams. That 25-17 loss cost the coach his job with one week to go. Jim Tomsula, serving a single-game stint as interim head coach, went with Alex Smith for a win against Arizona.

Smith understands this is the way it goes in the NFL - and in his case, year after year.

``Yeah, I've been in a few of these, you know?'' Smith said. ``And they're all different. You know, I think the great thing is obviously the character of this locker room. We've got great character in the quarterback room, too.

``It's not easy, it can be complicated, but this is a good problem for the 49ers. It's a good problem for us as a team. It's not a bad thing.''

Notes: LB Aldon Smith was selected NFC Defensive Player of the Week, following fellow linebacker Patrick Willis' honor earlier this season. Official scorers reviewed tape after Monday's win and gave him an additional half-sack for 5 1/2 of the six on Bears backup QB Jason Campbell. ``I think I made a lot of plays out there. They got the numbers right,'' said Smith, the NFL sacks leader with 15. ``I had fun.'' ... CB Chris Culliver, who played Monday night, wore a non-contact black jersey in practice as he nurses a shoulder injury.

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AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this story.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.

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Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

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USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden wants excellent play from Alex Smith, but he also expects personal responsibility

As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith. 

"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith. 

While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology. 

Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period. 

"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."

Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday. 

Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates. 

"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."

The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.

"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."

Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong. 

Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins. 

The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)

Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays. 

It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks. 

The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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