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Smith confident in place with 49ers despite free-agent status

Alex Smith is leading throwing sessions in the San Francisco 49ers' players-only workouts -- a completely normal development if not for the business of the quarterback technically being a free agent.

It's just another unusual aspect of a very strange NFL offseason.

Smith will be an unrestricted free agent once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, but new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh's public and private comments about the quarterback have left the six-year veteran comfortable that he'll be in San Francisco next season.

"I wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't for the relationship there, to be honest with you," Smith told the Bay Area News Group on Wednesday. "For the feeling I got from Harbaugh, the offensive coaching staff, from every time I've been in there, from before the lockout, from when the lockout ended that day and a half. ... But I have such a good feeling. I feel they've been up front about everything they've told me."

Harbaugh has been so vocal in his support of Smith that the NFL reportedly told the 49ers to stop talking about the quarterback or any free agents during the lockout.

"I laughed when the article came out that they told Harbaugh to stop talking about me," Smith said.

Smith said it felt good to read about Harbaugh's positive thoughts on him.

"You know, this is the first for me, to have an offensive head coach, especially someone who played the position and really knows what it's like to sit back in the pocket and all the different things that can impact your play," Smith said.

Smith told *The Sacramento Bee* that plans are in the works for a minicamp-style practice involving the 49ers' offensive players. Smith said the session would begin "shortly" and that the 49ers could have a number of them throughout the summer, depending on the status of the work stoppage.

"Becoming familiar with the terminology, the formations, the motions, the concepts -- things like that," Smith said when asked to describe the goal of the workouts. "So that whenever this (lockout) ends, you're not having to re-learn that."

Harbaugh might have great faith in Smith, but that doesn't mean the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick has a long future as San Francisco's signal-caller. The team drafted Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft in April.

Is it strange to have Smith's future replacement stand next to him during these workouts?

"No question," he said. "Oh, it's new. I guess I've slowly dealt with it, though. I don't think I've had a year without competition really in the last four years, though."

Smith spoke about the circle of life for an NFL quarterback, thinking back to when he was the hotshot from draft day.

"It did remind me a lot of when I came in, and Tim Rattay, to be honest with you," Smith said, referencing the quarterback whom he replaced in the 49ers' starting lineup. "... And I did think back about how good Tim was. How easy it would be to be bitter and to be an ass. Those guys did it the right way with me, and I'm going to do the same thing."

Kaepernick might be the future, but it appears that Smith remains the present in San Francisco. But he's not assuming he's the No. 1 guy just yet.

"I don't really view it like that," Smith said. "You're going to get into camp, and anywhere you go, the best guy's going to play. I mean, that's the way it's going to be. That's the way I view it. I know he (Harbaugh) said that, but for me, this is going to be wide open, and I'm going in with that mentality."

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