Q: What are the emotions like right now for you having put this thing to bed?
SMITH: You know, obviously happy. I’m glad that this is finally done. For me this was the plan all along. Since the season ended I wanted to be back here. It dragged out a little bit but I’m glad it’s over. Glad it’s done. Glad to get back to work.
Q: Yesterday Harbaugh said things are exactly the same between you and him. What’s your answer to that question? Where do things stand between you and the 49ers, you and Harbaugh?
SMITH: As good as they’ve always been and getting better. The thing from Day 1 when I first met Coach Harbaugh is he’s always been upfront and always been honest with me. He’s continued to do that during this entire process. That’s one of the reasons I love playing for him, so no question. Now, obviously looking forward to having an offseason with him.
Q: Was the organization upfront with you as far as their pursuit of Peyton Manning?
SMITH: They were, yes. Jim and Trent were the ones that informed me when this was happening, that they were going to look into that. Obviously it was a little unexpected, but that’s part of the deal. This is free agency and this is the NFL, and those things happen.
Q: Were you offended by that?
SMITH: Not offended at all (emphatically). I would’ve relished the opportunity to compete for the starting quarterback job with Peyton Manning.
Q: So you knew beforehand that they were flying out there to work him out?
SMITH: As far as the timeline goes, I’m not sure. I was right there along with it. Right there when they first started to look into the process of looking at him, they came over and sat down with me and told me about it.
Q: Were the 49ers telling you that if Manning chose the 49ers that you would be welcome back to the team as well?
SMITH: The contract was out there the whole time – that’s my impression. I guess that’s a better question for Jim and Trent, but that was my understanding. I feel like, well I know that this is my job. I feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve earned the right to compete for it. I’ve always welcomed competition and will continue to welcome it.
Q: Where did your frustration come from?
SMITH: The frustration came from the entire process of working out the contract, of just finally getting it done. It was a long process, longer than most I’ve been a part of – this is my fourth contract now with the Niners. Obviously I was anticipating it moving along quicker and it didn’t. That was the frustrating part, none of this other stuff.
Q: Were you looking for a longer commitment from the team?
SMITH: The years and the commitment had nothing to do with it. That has never been an issue for me.
Q: What was the issue for you, Alex? Why didn’t you sign it as soon as possible?
SMITH: The issues came more from the structure than anything. Really, the money wasn’t an issue. Those of you guys that know me know what type of guy I am. Money is great for security, but I’m not a guy that has a bunch of flashy cars. Other than taking care of my family, it’s not something that means a whole lot to me. Really just a matter of working out the contract to get it to where we felt good about it.
Q: But isn’t structure equivalent to commitment?
SMITH: Yes and no. No question. There’s so much language that goes into these contracts, different things here and there – that’s why I don’t do it myself. That’s why I have an agent that does that. He sits down with Paraag and they hash it all out. Just a matter of getting to where you want it.
Q: Was the structure altered in the last couple days?
SMITH: Yeah, I mean it’s been altering all along. This whole process is a give and take back and forth between myself and my agent and the Niners – just trying to meet on middle ground. That’s the process all along as you move along finally just getting it to where both sides are happy, both sides feel good about it.
Q: When you went to Miami, what were your emotions going on that first trip of free agency for you?
SMITH: I’d never been to Miami Beach and I thought it was a good way to go see it.
Q: Was it tricky because Tom Condon is representing you and Peyton?
SMITH: That has never been an issue for me. I have full trust in Tom. He and I have a great relationship. I don’t know where that report came from. Basically I think to a lot of people it made sense just because he represents both of us, but no, I didn’t have any issues with it at all.
Q: How serious were discussions with the Dolphins?
SMITH: It seemed serious at the time, but this was the plan all along. This is where I wanted to be. This was always the goal to me, just to get back here and to get it done. So, it kind of is what it is. It’s free agency. It’s the NFL. I went down there, but like I said, the plan all along was to be back here.
Q: To get Moss and Manningham now in your receiving corps, how’s that shaping up? Is that exciting?
SMITH: Yeah, I am excited about it. The NFL these days, this is what happens. You’re never going to be the same team two years in a row, there’s always going to be faces in and out year to year now. This is part of the deal.This year was kind of our receiving corps a little bit, and I’m excited for those two additions, and really excited for this offseason – to put the work in and to put the time in. To have an offseason to build on what we did last year and to get better, because we certainly have room for it and a need to.
Q: What intrigues you most about having Moss on that receiving corps?
SMITH: He’s Randy Moss. He’s got a toolset that is totally unique to himself. When your last name can all of a sudden can become a verb, “You got Mossed,” as the receivers say – he’s a special player. I think we’ve all seen what he’s done over the years. I look forward to being able to throw the ball to him.
Q: Just to be clear, while Peyton was waiting to make his decision, there was a contract offer on the table that you were still free to sign throughout the whole process?
SMITH: Always in contract negotiations with the Niners the entire time.
Q: Did you ever have any contact with Peyton?
SMITH: No, I never talked him.
Q: They told you last Monday?
SMITH: I don’t know what day it was, looking back as far as the whole timeline of events. Obviously early last week sometime, I forget what day it was. It’s all a blur.
Q: But it was in person?
SMITH: Yeah, Jim and Trent came over and I sat down with them.
Q: Were you conflicted as a free agent who had such a strong tie to the Niners?
SMITH: Yeah, I guess I never really felt like a free agent to tell you the truth. Like I said, this was the plan to come back here, it was just a matter of getting it right and getting it done. And that’s it, that’s the bottom line. I never really felt like a free agent. I don’t know if there is any protocol or right way to go about it. Obviously I would have liked to have it get done sooner, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s done now and I’m happy about it.
Q: What did Jim and Trent tell you about what would happen if they signed Manning?
SMITH: The first conversation with Jim, really the only time we talked about it, was about competition and the best man winning. That’s really the way it’s always been with Jim. It was the same way with me last year when I got brought in. Nothing was ever laid out there, nothing was given to you – you had to earn everything, and I agree with it. Jim firmly believes in it. That’s the nature of this game going all the way back to when it first started. It’s about competition and about the best guy playing and what’s best for the team. This isn’t about individuals. I agree with that, and I’ve been a part of a lot of that over the years. I’ve been involved in a lot of competitions – it seems like every year it’s like that. There won’t be anything different about it this year.
Q: Some people thought you’d have hard feelings.
SMITH: It feels like I’ve been through way worse than this. It’s free agency. It’s always going to be a little crazy, maybe this year a little crazier than most. You get to the point where you stop worrying about that stuff and you focus on what you need to do.
Q: In regards to improving, is there anything in particular you plan to work on this offseason?
SMITH: The passing game’s the emphasis. I think it’s time to kind of take it to another level. At times last year we were more effective than others and we certainly have a lot of room for improvement – obviously third down and red zone jump out at me, but just being more effective across the board in the passing game, really working on that timing. That’s something that we didn’t have a lot of time last year to do because of no offseason and jumping into it in the middle of the season. You just don’t have the time to work on the timing and being together for that amount of time and getting all the reps in, so for me that’s what I look to focus on.
Q: How eager are you to get all the headlines behind and you really start focusing on football?
SMITH: All of that aside, I guess I’ve just been anxious this entire time just to get back to football. This is my first time being a free agent and I wasn’t a fan of it. Football’s where I want to be and I want to get back to work, so I’m excited for that.