|Smith has Harbaugh's full support. (AP)|
Remember this spring, when the Colts had just released Peyton Manning and prospective suitors were queuing up for the future Hall of Famer's services? The Broncos, Dolphins, Cardinals and 49ers were all in the mix; the former won out while the latter -- coach Jim Harbaugh, specifically -- eventually denied ever having interest in Manning.
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We've written about this before, back in May, when Harbaugh told the media that "There's a perception out there and it's an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning. I keep hearing it over and over. It's silly and it's untrue. It's phony."
The only rational explanation for Harbaugh's remarks: he wanted to show his team -- and his current quarterback, Alex Smith -- that he has their full support and confidence. We get that.
Of course, in March, Smith, tired of waiting around for the 49ers to re-sign him (to be fair, the team was busy wooing Manning), paid the Dolphins a visit. There were even reports that he had entered contract negotiations. Ultimately, Smith re-upped with San Francisco and now, after a 13-3 effort in 2011, he's the unquestioned starter.
But even he seems willing to acknowledge what everybody already knew: the 49ers had legit interest in Manning (so much so that Harbaugh flew to North Carolina to work Manning out). During a recent radio interview, Smith was asked about San Francisco's, ahem, flirtation with Peyton.
“Yeah, it was unique, interesting," he said via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "I mean, what can you say? Obviously it's tough to even put in words. But through all of it, the great thing is, Coach Harbaugh, like I said the thing that first drew me in was how straightforward he was. And I'd been in negotiations with them since the season ended, so we're headed into free agency and the talks are going on and it's the back and forth between the agent and negotiators here, and just trying to get the contract right.
"And then the Peyton thing gets thrown in there, right there at the start of free agency and it was interesting. It was tough. You don't know what to do, obviously. You're on the phone the whole time with -- I was on the phone the whole time with Coach Harbaugh and he's continually saying, you know (there's) a spot here for you and potentially at that point competing with Peyton. And I just felt, without a doubt, I mean that whole time leading up to that, this was my job. I felt like I'd earned the right more than ever, coming back and this was my team and my position and I wasn't gonna give it up to anybody. But then again, it's a lot of ‘what ifs.'"
Credit to Harbaugh for being honest with Smith even if he insisted publicly that the 49ers' attraction to Manning was equal parts silly, untrue and phony.
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