Harbaugh insists Smith was 49ers' man all along

Associated Press Modified: May 30, 2012 at 7:46 pm •  Published: May 30, 2012
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh insists the 49ers planned to have Alex Smith as their quarterback even while they examined the possibility of signing then-free agent Peyton Manning.

Harbaugh ended his weekly meeting with reporters on Wednesday by addressing what he says is the "erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning."

Harbaugh called the reports silly and phony, then spoke at length about his and the team's ongoing support for Smith, who last season helped the 49ers reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

"I've said it all along, Alex Smith has been our quarterback," Harbaugh said. "There's no scenario other than Alex choosing to sign with another team that we would have considered him not as our quarterback. It's time to set the record straight.

"Alex Smith is our quarterback, was our quarterback and (we) had every intention of always bringing him back."

San Francisco was among a handful of teams looking at Manning, an 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

At one point, Harbaugh and other team officials flew to North Carolina to watch Manning work out on the Duke campus.

Manning chose the Denver Broncos, telephoning Harbaugh personally to inform him of his decision.

Harbaugh, though, said the 49ers were only examining Manning and that their interest in him didn't go much further than that.

Smith, who met briefly with the Miami Dolphins, wound up signing a three-year, $33 million contract to remain in San Francisco only a few days after Manning agreed to a $96 million, five-year contract with the Broncos.

"Were we out there seeing, evaluating if we could have them both? Heck yeah," Harbaugh said. "You evaluate that, you eliminate the possibility. We would not have given any player out there in free agency a sixth of our salary cap and let six or seven of our own guys go. Hopefully, that sets the record straight. You don't have to keep reporting the silliness or phoniness.