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Harbaugh expects Alex Smith to be cleared

Harbaugh expects Alex Smith to be cleared

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Jim Harbaugh expects Alex Smith to be medically cleared to play by Saturday.

Still, the 49ers coach did not announce Friday who will start at quarterback at New Orleans in two days.

Harbaugh says it serves no purpose to his team and organization to let anybody know what his plan at quarterback is for Sunday's game against the Saints.

Harbaugh also refutes reports earlier this week that he already has told Smith and Colin Kaepernick that Kaepernick will continue as the team's starter after making his first NFL start during Monday's rout of the Chicago Bears.

The coach indicates his stance on the quarterback situation is unlikely to change before the 49ers (7-2-1) meet the Saints (5-5) in a rematch of last year's NFC divisional playoff game won 36-32 by San Francisco.

``We could set our watch here for another 15 minutes and you could keep asking questions and the answers will still be the same,'' Harbaugh said Friday. ``We feel like there's no competitive advantage for us to release that information. We just do not get into what the role's going to be, how we're going to use them, and the specifics of that. It's unorthodox. So be it. That's the way we are going to go about it.''

Smith had started 28 consecutive games for the 49ers before he suffered a concussion during the team's 24-24 tie with St. Louis on Nov. 11. Smith practiced all of last week in a non-contact black jersey, but the team declared him out Monday morning for the Bears game later that evening after he was evaluated by team medical director Dr. Dan Garza.

Kaepernick had an auspicious starting debut in place of Smith, passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns with a quarterback rating of 133.1 to lead the 49ers to a 32-7 victory.

Smith practiced again in a black jersey Friday, as he has all week, and Harbaugh said Smith has gone several days without exhibiting any concussion-like symptoms.

``Alex went through his final test today and will be cleared tomorrow, if tomorrow again there are no symptoms,'' Harbaugh said. ``He hasn't had any symptoms since Tuesday, so that's a real positive.''

Kaepernick and Smith did not speak Friday with reporters.

A decision will be made Saturday regarding Smith's status for the Saints game.

Harbaugh said reports this week he already has spoken to both quarterbacks and has made a decision who will start against the Saints are ``not factual.''

``I know there are probably a lot of reports out there, and some of them have been brought to my attention,'' Harbaugh said. ``I didn't see any factual that (were) showed to me.''

Harbaugh said earlier this week that the 49ers don't have a quarterback controversy and the team is confident in both players. The coach said both Smith and Kaepernick have the ``hot hand,'' and he could even envision switching between the two during the rest of the season.

Smith had been playing some of his best football before being injured, completing 25 of 27 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns with no turnovers in his two previous games.

Smith had passer ratings of 157.1 and 143.8 in those two games, and he's currently the NFL's third-ranked quarterback with a 104.1 rating. Smith leads the NFL with a 70.0 completion percentage and is third in the league with an average gain of 7.98 yards per pass attempt.

But Kaepernick gave the 49ers a new dimension as a deep passer against the Bears, completing six passes of 20 or more yards to four receivers. Kaepernick is averaging 9.16 yards per pass attempt and also ranks third on the team with 189 yards rushing, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

``Both quarterbacks are looking sharp,'' offensive coordinator Greg Roman said. ``Colin's getting some of the reps, Alex is getting some of the reps, and that's how it gets divvied up.

``As far as specific game plan goes, it'll tilt one way or the other a little bit, but it won't be that different. It's a 49ers game plan. The beauty of having a quarterback like Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick is it's a great situation to be in. But what's happened up to this point is history.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series