By Jerrell Richardson
With Alex Smith suffering a concussion in last Sunday’s game, the buzz around 49ers camp is if the starting quarterback will strap it up against the Bears in a very important NFC battle on Monday Night. The team has come out and supported backup Colin Kaepernick and feels that the 2nd stringer is more the capable of stepping in if needed, but that’s what the team is supposed to say. If San Francisco hopes to beat the very talented Chicago Bears they need Alex Smith. Well, maybe.
If Cutler is Out
If the Bears are also without their quarterback, then the playing field is once again level. The Bears would have Jason Campbell, who has had success as a starter, but Kaepernick brings just as much to the table talent-wise and poises just as much of a threat. When considering that both will be going against the top two defenses in the league, the game figures to come down to the quarterback who plays smart (which both have struggled to do), as well as the ability to make the big play (advantage Kaepernick). The battle of the backups could be a mute point, as regardless of which reports you read, all signs point to Smith under center on Monday.
Getting A Second Opinion
One report is that Smith has passed all the post concussion tests this week and participated in practice on Wednesday. The other story is that he has not been cleared and is seeking a second opinion in an attempt to get clearance to play. The latter does have some truth in it, but it’s misleading as the league requires a second opinion. Therefore seeking another neurologist is more par for the course than any indication that something is wrong, and besides, it’s Wednesday!
Makes Sense To Wait
The game is Monday and especially now with the NFL taking a closer look at concussions, there is no way a player would be cleared on the first day of practice. It makes more sense medically to let Smith go through the week and see how he responds before declaring his status for the game. It also is a strategic move by the team, as it plays heavily in the 49ers favor if Chicago is unaware whom the starter will be. The same applies to San Francisco who must get ready for Jason Campbell, but Kaepernick is an entirely different player then Smith and must be specifically prepared for. Don’t expect the 49ers to show their hand too soon and make any final decisions midweek, even if they already known if Smith is good to go or not.
Smart to Sit Smith
Even if he is cleared to play, the team may still want to consider sitting him if Cutler does not trot on the field. The importance of this game does not outweigh the importance of the remaining schedule, including three crucial division games. This past week the team proved that they can struggle with or without Smith, so even with Alex leading the way, it’s still no guarantee that they will win. So why not sit him if Cutler misses the game? Chicago is a physical unit that will eventually get to whoever is under center and it’s matter of when, not if, Smith will takes a big hit.
Long Term Goals
Yes, San Francisco’s lead in the NFC shrunk last week, but there is no reason to panic as they are still in control of their own destiny as long as they don’t rush back Smith or lose him for any extended time. A second concussion could spell disaster for the season, and despite the mummers around the league this is far from a must win. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh has shown that he has a special bond for his players, especially his often-criticized quarterback who he has helped developed into a player setting both team and league records, and there is no doubt that if Smith is not taking snaps against the Bears, it’s in the best interest of everyone, and not just the team.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.