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49ERS Top rookie QB gets reps with starters



Published: Tue, August 2, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Three coaches are working with Alex Smith on his timing.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- Alex Smith wants to be the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback in the season opener, and that goal seems more achievable every day.

Smith worked out with the 49ers' first-string offense at training camp Monday, the third straight day of work with the starters for the No. 1 overall pick.

The Utah graduate made strong throws with a quick release and nimble feet during the latest series of drills.

Before camp began, coach Mike Nolan intended to rotate his four quarterbacks among the first-, second- and third-string groups in practice, but Smith has been too sharp. In fact, Nolan essentially said Smith would be with the 49ers' starters for the foreseeable future.

Smith says he wants the starting job, and Nolan says he would be pleased if Smith beat out last year's starter, Tim Rattay, and backups Ken Dorsey and Cody Pickett for the top job.

"I certainly won't bank our success on that," Nolan said. "I don't think that's fair for the players or the position. If it happens, great, but I know we'll get leadership from some different people. I don't look for one guy to take us to the promised land, because most teams don't ever get there on that."

Getting his timing down

Smith's powerful arm has drawn appreciative cheers from the fans assembled at the 49ers' training complex for the first three days of camp, though he hasn't connected on many long passes with his receivers during scrimmage drills.

That's all a matter of timing, which he's getting plenty of opportunities to perfect with Johnnie Morton, Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle.

"He looks good. He's dedicated to improving, and that's all we can really ask out of him," Lloyd said. "The kid can take what he learned in the classroom, go into the huddle, call a play and then go out and run a successful play."

The 49ers haven't seen any problems with Smith's adjustment to a traditional West Coast offense after two seasons in Utah coach Urban Meyer's shotgun schemes. Even with starting center Jeremy Newberry sidelined by his latest knee surgery, Smith has experienced no problems taking snaps from converted guard Eric Heitmann in practice.

Lloyd believes Smith's footwork has improved dramatically since the first minicamp, though Smith acknowledges he has more work to do.

Smith and linebacker Julian Peterson also have been the 49ers' most popular players among the fans, signing hundreds of autographs after every practice. Replicas of Smith's No. 11 jersey already dot the stands.

Smith signed a six-year, $49.5 million contract with San Francisco last week, making sure he would report to camp on time. Smith also attended every relevant offseason activity in Santa Clara, working hard in minicamps and the classroom.

"It's not like I'm setting a date on the calendar," Smith said.

"My job is to reach my full potential. [Starting the opener] is a goal I've set for myself, but we'll find out whether that's attainable."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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