Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 7/27/12

Alex Smith re-invented himself -- and saved his career -- under the tutelage of coach Jim Harbaugh, leading the 49ers to an appearance in the NFC Championship game last season. He did so with a controlled approach, leaning mostly on the running game, tight end Vernon Davis, and suffocating defensive play.

After the team went out and buffed up their receiving corps this offseason, adding Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and rookie A.J. Jenkins, Smith now has plenty of weapons at his disposal.

Taking that into consideration, former Niners great and ESPN analyst Jerry Rice feels it's time to remove the training wheels and let the pigskin fly.

"I seriously think they got to take the diaper off this guy and let him play," Rice said Thursday, via USA Today. "Let him be a grown man."

Rice's position is understandable, given that Smith had just 445 passing attempts in 2011. Though he managed to throw for 3,144 yards and 17 touchdowns in a run-first offense, Smith rarely took shots downfield, a trend that has to change with the likelihood of Moss and Manningham stretching the field.

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