Harbaugh: Smith an expert in 49ers offense


SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh and 49ers quarterback Alex Smith did not exactly see eye-to-eye on Thursday.But don't expect their relationship to be strained over it. The men disagreed after Harbaugh complimented Smith's grasp of the 49ers' offense.
"He's an expert in this offense," Harbaugh said.When asked if he agreed with Harbaugh's assessment of his level of expertise, Smith responded, "No, no, no. Not at all. A lot to learn."Harbaugh said he can't pinpoint exactly when Smith got to the exalted "expert" category in the offense. But all he knows is that Smith has arrived on the Expert Express.
"He is now," Harbaugh said, "and by the time we get here next year, he'll probably be well past me."He's very smart. He already has great ideas. He already is very creative. He already is knowledgeable in how to use everything in the system. . . He's way ahead of the curve. I think after a year, you really know it. It takes about two years in the system to be a real expert at it. He's cut that in half."The 49ers' offense made noticeable strides this week in practices, especially with Smith at quarterback. Smith was impressive again on Thursday with very few of his passes hitting the ground. He was accurate with passes of varying depths.
"If we are taking shots, it's our guys or nobody," Smith said. "And I think better decision-making as a group in the quarterback room this week in general. Even today, not many balls hit the ground. When they did, they were good shots and not being careless with the football."Running back Frank Gore, receiver Mario Manningham and defensive lineman Justin Smith, each of whom was held out of the 49ers' exhibition opener, will play Saturday against the Houston Texans, Harbaugh said.Among the players not expected to play are outside linebackers Aldon Smith (right hip) and Ahmad Brooks (left knee), cornerback Perrish Cox (leg) and tight end Delanie Walker (right knee).

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