With training camp set to open later this week, Smith is excited about the prospect of making people forget that oh-so-forgettable first season in the NFL.
"I'm tremendously excited about it," Smith said. "There was so much stuff around last year, I feel like this year I'm actually back to playing football. I was still playing last year, but there was so much clutter around that it kind of lost some of the sport about it."
Smith, who was known for his athleticism and decision-making at Utah, showed few of the traits that made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft. His passer rating was a lowly 40.8. He threw 11 interceptions and one touchdown, and he rushed for just 103 yards while playing nine games, including seven starts.
He said part of the problem last season was that he never got fully comfortable in the West Coast offense. But in his second year, he now is working under a different offense, as Norv Turner has taken over as coordinator for Mike McCarthy, who left the 49ers to become Packers head coach.
When the 49ers selected Smith, his former coach at Utah, Urban Meyer, predicted Smith with struggle as a rookie. He said that Smith would be "non-functional" until he learned everything about the offense. Indeed, Smith looked robotic and tentative with the 49ers.
"It's the same thing I went through at Utah," Smith said. "When I didn't know where I was going with the ball, I had those exact words said about me, that I played robotic. Because I was unsure, I was very rigid in where I wanted to go because I was such a cerebral player. I think that's what makes me a good player.
"When I'm dropping back and second-guessing myself, I think I do play that way. My athleticism doesn't come out because I'm second-guessing myself. I'm not playing. I'm playing slow, and it's very visible."
Even though Smith has been through just the offseason program, he said he feels so much better than a year ago.
"I'm much more comfortable dropping back now, and say I don't even know what the defense is doing -- it's scattered -- I feel more confident now about knowing where I should go with the ball. I know the answers. Last year, everything was so new that I'd panic."
Full squad reports on Thursday, July 27, with first practice scheduled for Friday, July 28. The 49ers will not hold a scrimmage. Nine dates are open to the public. Each of the nine open practices feature interactive games and player autograph sessions for fans The free open practices are scheduled for Saturday, July 29 (9:00 a.m.), Monday, July 31 (4:00 p.m.), Wednesday, August 2 (4:00 p.m.), Friday, August 4 (4:00 p.m.), Saturday, August 5 (3:00 p.m.), Monday, August 7 (4:00 p.m.), Wednesday, August 9 (4:00 p.m.), Sunday, August 13 (9:40 a.m.) and Tuesday, August 15 (4:00 p.m.). More than 3,000 people are expected to attend each ticketed practice. To obtain tickets, fans must register online at www.49ers.com. Tickets are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.
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