Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/21/12
Although Emmitt Smith was eliminated from the weekly television competition on Tuesday night, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh is making sure the National Football League is still taking part in "Dancing with the Stars." Under the glare of local and national media attention at the team headquarters Wednesday, Harbaugh displayed a nifty 49ers Quick Step as he danced around the subject of the day -- the quarterback controversy involving Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick -- which he dismissed with a flourish by declaring, "We don't have a quarterback controversy." Harbaugh insists that is the name of the tune to which his team will dance, despite the fact he will not name which quarterback will start this Sunday in New Orleans. This issue became Topic A news, apparently not to be confused with controversy, when Kaepernick, the second-year quarterback from Nevada-Reno, started against the Chicago Bears Monday Night while the eighth-year veteran Smith sat out because of a concussion. Kaepernick played great in his first start and the 49ers demolished what was considered a very good Bears defense, 32-7. Kaepernick's arsenal included several completions that were thrown farther than Smith might attempt with any regularity. Smith returned to limited practice last Thursday but was unable to play in the game because he did not pass the prerequisite impact test. Apparently he has not yet taken, or passed, the test still. He is cleared to take part in non-contact practice sessions, but doesn't have the green light to play in a game. "I think it's a matter of time before he is," Harbaugh said. "He's going to practice again today. … Pretty confident that it'll play out and he's going to be cleared, and that's talking to the doctors and talking to Alex. But I can't definitively say." So even if Harbaugh does have a preference, the lack of medical clearance for Smith affords the coach the opportunity not to take part in the widespread discussions concerning Smith vs. Kaepernick. "I know everybody took the opportunity after the big win the other night to talk non-stop about the quarterback situation and very little about the great victory, both offensively and defensively, special teams," Harbaugh said in a single breath. "And the way we view it right now is we have two quarterbacks who we are confident in and who work for us and we believe in. "To me, it's the opposite of a controversy, where controversy is argument between opposing points of view. This is a decision that will be made from a team aspect, coming from the same direction." That seems to be a good direction, based on the performance of both players. Before the concussion, Smith completed 25 of his last 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Overall, Smith is having one of his best seasons. He is third in the league with a 104.1 passer rating, first in the league with a 70 percent completions percentage and his 7.98 yards per throw is third in the NFL. So is it possible that Kaepernick can overtake that in only one game, albeit an impressive prime time show in which he completed 16 of 23 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns? The fact that Harbaugh will not, or cannot, announce Sunday's starter only feeds the, ah, frenzy, not to be confused with controversy. "This is not one of those situations where you have the aging starting quarterback and everybody is clamoring for the young, backup quarterback," Harbaugh said. "Or the struggling guy and they want the next guy. Or the young guy is in there struggling, and people are clamoring for the popular backup. We have two really good guys." Running back Frank Gore echoed what every player said: "It's up to the coaches." Smith and Kaepernick have gotten along and they help each other with the game plan every week, or at least they have so far. Although Smith certainly wants to retain his job, he will not say anything negative about Kaepernick. . "In my opinion, if you can't be happy for your teammate's success, you're playing the wrong sport -- go play tennis or golf or something," Smith said. "That's ridiculous, I think. That doesn't belong in team sports, in my opinion." This quarterback situation isn't totally new to a franchise that once had future Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young on the same depth chart at the same time. However, neither of these quarterbacks has attained star status yet, so Harbaugh is able to say things that never could have been considered for Montana and Young. Such as using both quarterbacks interchangeably, swapping places game to game, series to series. If George Seifert ever tried that with Montana and Young there might have been a mugging somewhere between the huddle and the sideline. "I think it's a unique situation, yeah, to have two really good players," Harbaugh said. "Could we? Yes, we could." Harbaugh certainly has that luxury at this point because the 49ers are 7-2-1 and have the second seed in the NFC playoffs. "We'll let it play out," Harbaugh said about his quarterback situation. "I wouldn't expect an announcement today or any timeline on that. We'll get that to you."
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