NEW ORLEANS (CBS Sports / AP) — Colin Kaepernick’s image filled the Superdome scoreboard, his ears tucked into his red 49ers hat just so, as he sat at one of the seats reserved for the biggest personalities and most important players at the Super Bowl.

He is, after all, San Francisco’s starting quarterback.

About 50 yards away, not in one of those seats set aside for starters, stood Alex Smith, Kaepernick’s backup. Smith was not shown on the scoreboard.

It’s not often backup quarterbacks draw a crowd, but Smith might be an exception.

Question after question came at Smith, but instead of being about how to beat the Baltimore Ravens or what it might feel like to win a championship, most concerned his transition from starter to reserve in this, ironically, his best season in the NFL. NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. A top-of-the-league passer rating. One game when he completed 18 of 19 passes. But then came a concussion in one game, sitting out as a precaution in the next – and that was that. The job became Kaepernick’s for good.

“I’m not going to lie about any of that,” Smith said at the Superdome. “Tough at times, for sure, tough to accept, tough to watch.”

And then he added: “But we’re in the Super Bowl.”

About 15 minutes later, the guy who took his spot in the lineup, was asked whether he feels bad at all for Smith.

“I mean, it’s a business,” Kaepernick replied. “You have to do whatever you can to try to be successful.”

With the emergence of Kaepernick, Smith is not the 49ers’ starter now and might never be again. So, Smith may become expendable for the 49ers — especially with a contract due to pay him $8.5 million next season.

With a shortage of decent quarterbacks in the NFL, most observers think Smith plays for another team next season.

“His market is going to be really big,” predicted one AFC offensive coordinator to CBS Sports, “bigger than anybody realizes — maybe bigger than it should be. Because there’s nowhere to find these guys. If there were more guys coming out in the draft who could come in and be the starter it would be different. But there’s not enough supply for the demand. So Alex Smith is going to get a really nice deal.”

When 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was asked Wednesday about Smith’s reported request for a release from the Niners, he didn’t answer the question directly.

“We have a left arm and we have a right arm. That’s something that’s very good for our football team,” Harbaugh explained. “Of course you understand the desire to play and the desire to start. Alex, we expect that, we’ve talked about that, and he’s provided that. He’s gone into every game with that mentality. Preparing like a starter and ready to play. Before every game I talk to him about ‘Be ready to go today, be ready.’ It’s obvious through his preparation during the week that he is ready to go.”

(Copyright 2013 CBS San Francisco and the Associated Press. CBS Sports contributed to this report.)


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