Smith directs 49ers' minicamp

SAN JOSE — The media was barred from watching the first day of the 49ers' players-only offensive minicamp Monday, a 2-hour session during which the participants only covered the basics of the playbook.

Still, one thing appeared quite clear after 24 Niners left San Jose State for the day: Quarterback Alex Smith and wide receiver Michael Crabtree still aren't on the same page.

Without seeing Smith throw or Crabtree catch, the third-year receiver's post-practice comments strongly suggested the pair probably didn't grab dinner together in the South Bay on Monday night.

Smith, the de facto coach during this week's four-day minicamp, has had regular throwing sessions at SJSU during the NFL lockout and those workouts have typically included several Niners wide receivers. Among that group has been Josh Morgan, San Francisco's other starting wideout.

Crabtree, however, hasn't participated despite spending much of his offseason in the Bay Area. Asked last week why Crabtree has been a no-show, Smith said, "Great question. Asking the wrong guy."

On Monday, Crabtree was posed a similar question: Wouldn't it be a good idea for a receiver to establish some offseason chemistry with his quarterback?

"Who's the quarterback," Crabtree asked.

Alex Smith.

"He's the quarterback?" Crabtree responded. "I'm just asking."

Based on their connection — or lack thereof — perhaps Crabtree wishes someone other than Smith was the Niners' presumptive starter. Smith had a 55.7 passer rating when targeting Crabtree last year (and a 103.6 rating when targeting Morgan).

Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has signaled Smith will be the favorite to win the starting job whenever the lockout is lifted.

Crabtree, though, didn't sound sold on Smith's frontrunner status.

"I wish I could tell you that," he said. "I know what you're all scratching at. I wish I could tell you who is going to be the quarterback. I don't know. I don't know. Whoever the quarterback is, I'm 100 percent down with it and I'm ready to go. That's it."

Smith has certainly acted the part of starting quarterback during the lockout. He's paid for the use of SJSU's facilities and has organized this week's minicamp — personally contacting every offensive player. When rookie wide receiver Ronald Johnson worked out in the Bay Area earlier this offseason, Smith paid for his plane flight, according to the Sacramento Bee.

On Monday morning, Smith led a pre-practice classroom session, standing before his teammates at a projector and explaining plays and concepts. He later approached a group of reporters and barred them from the practice at Spartan Stadium.

"He's done a great job handling everything," tight end Vernon Davis said. "This is the Alex we need to see right here ... someone who is taking his job serious. He wants to make sure all the guys around him are getting their job done."

Said running back Anthony Dixon, "Alex is just as good as a coach, man. It's really impressive how much he knows."

Crabtree, though, sounded a different note when asked if Smith was the one instructing players during the on-field practice session.

"It's the quarterbacks," said Crabtree, who declined to say who had contacted him regarding the minicamp. "I know you all want me to say something about Alex and this. It's the quarterbacks. Everybody is here having fun. Everybody is getting along. He's (backup quarterback David Carr) out here."

Crabtree said he's been working out with a "couple" college quarterbacks at a park in the Bay Area during the offseason. He said he often prefers to work out on his own, but will show up for team functions such as this week's minicamp, which included 19 offensive players Monday.

Crabtree noted he's taken some shots in the media. He was asked if he understood why some might question to his decision to not get together with Smith until this week.

"They just don't understand me," Crabtree said. "I work out hard. I'm one of the hardest workers on the team. You can write that down — I work out hard, man. That's just what I do. I'm not worried about what people are saying. If the guys are out here, I'm here. They have to know that. They have to understand that."


While the typically tight-lipped Crabtree spoke with the media for about 10 minutes, Smith said he won't speak until Thursday, the last day of the minicamp. Prior to the practice session, Smith told a group of reporters waiting inside Spartan Stadium that he was closing the workout to the media.

He said he didn't want a potential distraction during the first day of the minicamp, but said the final practice on Thursday would likely be open. San Jose State sports information director Lawrence Fan later said today's practice would be open to the media for the first 30 minutes.

Fan also said the 49ers players, Smith presumably foremost among them, had made a "heartfelt donation" to the Spartan Foundation in exchange for use of the university's facilities.

The 19 offensive players to attend Monday's practice: QB Alex Smith, QB David Carr, QB Colin Kaepernick, RB Kendall Hunter, RB Anthony Dixon, FB Moran Norris, WR Michael Crabtree, WR Ted Ginn, WR Kyle Williams, WR Ronald Johnson, WR Dominique Zeigler, WR Kevin Jurovich, TE Vernon Davis, TE Delanie Walker, TE Nate Byham, T Joe Staley, T Anthony Davis, G Mike Iupati, G/C Mike Person.