Is Michael Crabtree completely on board with Alex Smith ushering in the Jim Harbaugh era as the 49ers' starting quarterback?
Any doubts that Smith, a free agent, would not be back with the Niners have been all but extinguished in the wake of a four-day, players-only minicamp at San Jose State this past week that was dubbed "Camp Alex." Sources on the scene said it has become clear that Smith has had an enthusiastic change of heart about his status with the Niners and couldn't be more excited about the coming season.
"He really wants to make it work," one team insider said of Smith. "He's always wanted to make it work. I think putting down roots is part of it. He just had his first son and seems pretty settled down in the Bay Area."
Crabtree, however, offered a different vibe, totally downplaying Smith's organizational efforts and apparent starting status at the beginning of the minicamp before shutting down with sore feet after working out in new cleats the first day of practice. There was instant speculation that Crabtree's apparent lack of commitment to Smith might have been due to Smith's response a week earlier when asked by local media members why Crabtree had not been attending prior informal workouts involving Niners players. "Good question," Smith answered cryptically. "Honestly, I don't know."
Smith told team insiders he regretted making that comment, and that he quickly apologized to Crabtree. He also openly acknowledged the lack of chemistry between him and Crabtree and indicated that a concerted effort needs to be made to improve their relationship. But with Crabtree continuing to beat to his own drum, the verdict remains out.
"He's just a really different guy, a lone wolf," the insider said of Crabtree. "The other players like him, and he runs great routes and works very hard. But he just prefers to do a lot of stuff on his own."
As a result, while there does not appear to be anything close to an outright rift between Crabtree and Smith, the potential for mixed messages continues.