Two Smiths, Alex and Justin, were added as San Francisco 49ers team captains on Saturday.
Jim Harbaugh revealed the news at the conclusion of the team’s first official practice with the 53-man roster and eight-man practice squad intact.
After practice, 49ers players filled out ballots in a team meeting which were then quickly tabulated by first-round pick
The two players with the most votes had the same last name.
“It represents the team well,” Gore said, “especially with Justin and Alex coming out.”
Harbaugh and the players were the only ones to vote on the captains.
“Congratulations to those men,” the 49ers coach said. “There is no greater honor than to be elected captain by your teammates.”
Despite having many veteran leaders littered throughout San Francisco’s roster, there wasn’t much of a debate when it came time to pick two more leaders to join Willis and Gore.
“It wasn’t a big surprise with the captains,” Pro Bowl left tackle
Gore was pleased to see Smith, a fellow member of the team’s 2005 Draft class, join him as co-offensive captain.
“He deserves it,” Gore said of his quarterback. “He had a great year last year, had a great camp. He’s a hard-worker, a great teammate. Everybody respects him in the locker room, so he deserves to be the captain.”
Harbaugh asked Justin Smith to say a few words to the team following his selection as a co-defensive captain.
“He said he’d keep it short and sweet, and said, ‘We know our goals, we know what we want to accomplish. It’s all about going out there and doing your job and taking care of business,’” Harbaugh said. “Then he sat down.”
With captains named and the 49ers first opponent in sight, a suddenly less-crowded locker room had a sharp focus.
Gore, especially, sounded eager for the regular season to begin. Following a four-carry preseason, the 49ers all-time leading rusher is healthy and feeling fresh for the team’s Sept. 9 opener in Green Bay.
“I’m happy to get back started,” Gore said. “Now I can go full-tilt against Green Bay.”
The 49ers will prepare for the Packers with undrafted tight end
Harbaugh told the media that the Michigan State tight end’s promotion happened because Celek could help the 49ers win immediately and because his prospects bode well in the future.
“As we said early on in this process,” Harbaugh began, “it’s going to be a meritocracy here. Those things are earned out on the field. (Celek) did enough in our eyes to earn that spot.”
Celek’s inclusion on the 49ers roster might have caught some off-guard, but his 3-yard touchdown catch in the preseason finale and overall performance in training camp and games helped him make a talented roster. In doing so, Celek earned the respect of his veteran teammates.
Gore said he had a lot of respect for any young player who cracked San Francisco’s 53.
“We had a great team last year and added some new guys who can help this team,’ Gore said. “To see the young guys who made the team, that’s great knowing they’ve been competing with all the good guys we have.”
However, selection to the 53-man roster isn’t the ultimate goal, not to Harbaugh, nor to his players.
“I’m sure this has taken place, and it’s my hope that every man on the 53-man roster and the eight youngsters that are on the developmental roster, this will not be the ultimate day of this year,” Harbaugh said. “This isn’t their ultimate goal, the high moment of their year. They’re putting a plan together to stay a part of the San Francisco 49ers, this fraternity that goes back to the 1930’s, a group of men playing in the National Football League.”
Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley reiterated Harbaugh’s point.
“A lot of guys on the team have a lot of talent, it was a hard team to make this year,” Staley said. “As coach would say, and I believe it too, your goal shouldn’t be to make the team. Who cares if you make the team? We’re trying to win games. That’s why you do everything you can to help this team.”
To Staley, the feeling is universal in the 49ers locker room.
“All the guys who know that, know the expectations. You can’t relax because you’ve made the team.”