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49ers QB Watch Continues

Posted Nov 21, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers have not named a starting quarterback for Sunday’s road matchup against the New Orleans Saints.

Talk radio is demanding it be announced yesterday, but Jim Harbaugh’s not having it.

San Francisco’s starter, Alex Smith, still needs to be cleared for contact from the concussion he suffered on Nov. 11. On the other hand, Smith’s backup, Colin Kaepernick, is coming off a remarkable first start against the Chicago Bears.

So who starts against the Saints?

“I know that everybody took the opportunity after the big win the other night to talk nonstop about the quarterback situation, and very little about the great team victory that we had, both offensively, defensively, special teams,” Harbaugh said on Wednesday.

“The way we view it right now is we’ve got two quarterbacks that we’re confident in that have won for us and we believe in. And to me it’s the opposite of a controversy, where controversy is argument between opposing points of view. This is a decision that’ll be made from a team aspect, coming from the same direction.”

No surprise. For Harbaugh’s it’s always been about “The team, the team, the team.”

Smith, San Francisco’s primary starter since the start of 2011 (Harbaugh’s first year with the club), said he’s still in the process of being cleared for contact. The eight-year veteran practiced in a limited basis on Wednesday, the first session of the week in preparation for a Week 12 road game against New Orleans.

If able to play, it’ll be a rematch for Smith versus the team he won his first playoff game against, a memorable 36-32 win in the NFL’s Divisional Playoff round.

Smith feels like he’s improved since the injury suffered early in a 24-24 tie to the Rams. The quarterback who’s won 19 games since the start of 2011, however, said he felt more concussion-like symptoms last week the closer it got to kick-off against Chicago.

But with more time passing since the injury, Smith is feeling much better.

“I’m kind of expecting things to go well,” Smith said. “Still those steps to kind of go through, though.”

Harbaugh echoed those positive thoughts, saying “it’s a matter of time” before Smith is cleared for contact.

Until Smith can pass the final contact test, the 49ers won’t hesitate to use Kaepernick, who displayed his wide-ranging talents in a 32-7 win over the league’s most opportunistic defense.

Smith, too, couldn’t help but pleased for his understudy.

“In my opinion, if you can’t be happy for your teammates’ success, then you’re playing the wrong sport,” Smith said. “Go play tennis or golf or something.”

Kaepernick appreciated the support of his veteran teammate.

“We’ve always been at each other’s side,” said Kaepernick, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns against Chicago on a national stage. “We’ve always supported each other. So, we’re going to keep doing that.”

Both quarterbacks haven’t been given word on who will start this Sunday, but it doesn’t seem like there’s a rush to do it either.

“Yeah, there’s not going to be an announcement of the starting job,” Harbaugh said. “I think most of the people that really want to know and really care, don’t really care whether we win or lose, to be honest with you.”

Harbaugh was clearly referencing the Saints coaching staff, who will have to prepare extensively for two quarterbacks leading up to Sunday.

“I don’t know if it’s in our best interest to make a snap decision on that,” Harbaugh added. “We’ll get all the factors weighed out. And we’ll talk about it. And we’ll come to the best decision for our team.”

Again, it goes back to the team.

Harbaugh did mention it’s possible both could play in the same game. It was something the team used earlier in the year but quieted down midseason. Perhaps the two-quarterback system might be more in play with six crucial games left in the regular season.

“We both want to do whatever’s best for the team,” Kaepernick said, “whatever’s going to make us win… We’re just going to put the team first. That’s what’s the most important.”

Harbaugh considers it to be a good situation. At practice, both have played outstanding football according to the 49ers coach. It’s even better on the field; Smith leads the NFL with a 70.0 completion percentage and is third in quarterback rating at 104.1.

“Alex has done that over a long stretch, 25-game stretch,” Harbaugh said. “Kap’s done that over the last two games, played winning football, and played at a very high level. So, they both have the hot hand, so to speak. And we feel great about it.

“This isn’t one of those situations where you have the aging starting quarterback and everybody’s clamoring for the young backup quarterback. Or a struggling guy and they want the next guy. Or the young guys in there struggling and people are clamoring for the popular backup. We have two really good guys. And that’s the way we feel about it.”

So while talk radio and football writers are left to speculate, Harbaugh’s hoping New Orleans is in the same boat.

“We’ll let it play out,” he said when asked repeatedly about naming a starter. “I wouldn’t expect an announcement today or any timeline on that. But, we’ll get that to you.”

At the very least, Sunday at 1:25 p.m. PT is when it goes public.

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