It’s nourishing. It’s refreshing. And at the end of a hard day’s work at San Francisco 49ers Football School,
A day earlier, Smith scrambled to find the object of his desire: a post-practice protein shake, something he enjoys at the conclusion of each day of 49ers on-field work. Thursday, however, there was no such problem locating the drinks. The shakes were left in the locker room by members of the team’s café cooking staff, giving Smith the perfect ending to a challenging day of workouts.
“They’re good,” Smith said, looking at the thick, pinkish drink held in his left hand. “There’s not much milk in them, just shake. More shake than milk.”
Sipping down a protein shake in a matter of seconds takes on a different meaning for the 28-year-old signal caller who's coming off the best season of his seven-year NFL career.
“It kind of signifies the day’s done, my workout’s over,” Smith said with a look of satisfaction. “Shower, eat, and then it’s time to get out of here.”
Smith has plenty to do when he’s away from the facility like playing with his son Hudson, who just began to walk. But until the time comes for him to drink his shake and clock out from his day job, Smith’s extremely focused on the work taking place under the guidance of NFL Coach of the Year Jim Harbaugh.
“Love it,” said Smith, who raved about his first offseason working under Harbaugh being the perfect combination of fun and detailed work.
“From the first day it’s been 100-miles an hour, just going, going, going,” said the 6-foot-4, 217-pound signal caller, who led the 49ers to a 13-3 regular season record, the franchise’s first NFC West title since 2002 and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
“We’re not waiting for tomorrow,” Smith continued. “We get as much done as we can in one day. At the same time, it’s so much fun with Coach Harbaugh because he keeps it light, he keeps it loose.”
Case in point: the combine-like gauntlet drills that has Smith, fellow 49ers quarterbacks
“We have so much fun with the competitions out there,” Smith said, “then all of a sudden he busts out the gauntlet, just different stuff every day.
“He makes it so much fun, especially with this time of the year, we work so hard and at the same time, it’s good to compete. It’s a great combination.”
Pushing the right buttons has been a staple of Harbaugh’s early tenure with the 49ers. Smith appreciates the little things that Harbaugh has accentuated as the head of the team. As the two continue to collaborate together, Smith sees their on-field working relationship continuing to blossom. It’s that way with the entire 49ers coaching staff, which was relegated to reading reports of Smith teaching the offense to teammates last summer due to the league’s offseason work stoppage.
It’s much different in 2012 with Smith able to communicate with quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst, offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Harbaugh, who takes a hands-on approach with his quarterbacks.
“At this time of the year, we just come in and work, we get detailed and Coach Harbaugh is the most detailed quarterbacks coach I’ve been around, which I love,” Smith said. “It’s great.”
“You don’t want to come out and go through the motions,” Smith added. “You want to get something out of this. We’re so detailed on the fundamentals of the quarterback position and all of us getting better at our weaknesses, I love that, I think it’s great.”
Making things even more spirited on the practice fields is the depth within this year’s quarterbacks.
“It’s a competitive group,” Smith said, making no bones about the practice level amongst his position group. “It’s probably the most talented quarterback group I’ve been a part of. I feel like those other three guys can play.”
Smith sees “no wasted reps” from this year’s quarterbacks.
“We’re all jumping in and whoever’s jumping in there is making plays,” Smith said.
The 49ers starter, who threw for a career-high 3,144 passing yards, with 17 touchdowns against a franchise-low five interceptions, and also broke the franchise’s record with five, fourth-quarter comebacks in 2011.
The 49ers remain competitive throughout the quarterback depth chart, signing Johnson, Harbaugh’s former University of San Diego pupil, to go with last year’s newcomers Kaepernick and Tolzien.
“We’ve got a good group,” said Smith, who’s enjoyed getting to know Johnson this offseason. “All these guys are true professionals. They work hard. They’re doing it the right way and they’re hungry to get better.”
But it’s not just the quarterbacks who are standing out to Smith. While he does spend a great deal of time with the group, he’s also quite familiar with the efforts of the receiving corps.
When asked who’s jumped out to him through three weeks of Football School sessions, Smith didn’t hesitate to say, “A lot of guys.”
Smith, however, made it a point to praise newcomers
“I look at the new guys in general, but obviously Mario, and Randy coming in right away and just not missing a beat, fitting in, and just working extremely hard,” Smith said.
The starting quarterback, like many of his teammates respected Manningham and running back
“I think all the teammates agree those guys have stepped in and worked from the first day they got here, they’ve worked and worked hard,” Smith said. “They’ve jumped right in. they’ve both been in their playbooks and know their stuff. Guys respect that immediately that these guys are true professionals. They take their jobs seriously, no surprise.”
Smith even ribbed Manningham about missing the ceremony, asking the wideout when he’d be receiving his ring. “I think it’s being shipped in by Tiffany’s or something like that… you know, I’m a little jealous of that,” Smith admitted. “Right now, I’m a little jealous those guys got it last year. But obviously we’re working towards next year and the possibilities it holds.”
Although the free agents from New York have caught the eye of the 49ers quarterback, it hasn’t distracted him from appreciating the continued work of last year’s leading wide receiver,
“Crab’s jumped out at me,” Smith said. “I think he’s feeling good. He’s healthy. It’s the first offseason he’s been healthy and has been running really well. It’s the best I’ve seen him in a long time.
“He’s been playing at a high level, but he’s healthy, he’s confident, he knows what he’s doing. I think he’s someone who looks good out there right now.”
Until summer camp rolls around, Smith and company will continue to push one another to get ready for another run under Harbaugh.
And of course, there will be plenty of protein shakes to consume before that happens.