Even though he is a free agent, Alex Smith has been endorsed by coach Jim Harbaugh as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback. Receiver Michael Crabtree apparently isn't convinced Smith deserves the job.
Crabtree joined 49ers informal workouts for the first time Monday, when offensive players began a four-day "minicamp" at San Jose State. He has missed other informal workouts despite being in the Bay Area.
When asked by reporters if he thought catching passes from Smith was important to building chemistry, Crabtree responded: "Who's the quarterback?"
When told Smith was the likely starter, Crabtree said: "He's the quarterback? I'm just asking."
Crabtree told reporters that whoever starts at quarterback for the 49ers would get his support, but he's still not sure who that player will be.
"I wish I could tell you that," he told reporters. "I know what you're all scratching at. I wish I could tell you who is going to be the quarterback. I don't know. I don't know. Whoever the quarterback is, I'm 100 percent down with it and I'm ready to go. That's it."
Last week, Smith seemed to take a shot at Crabtree in an interview with the San Jose Mercury News when he was asked about Crabtree's absence from workouts.
"Great question," Smith told the newspaper. "Asking the wrong guy, honestly."
Crabtree told the San Francisco Chronicle he was doing the same things his teammates were doing, just in another setting and with college players.
"Routes, every day," Crabtree told the Chronicle. "I do just what they have been doing here. At a park. Nice field. It's in the mountains, too."
During the brief period when the lockout was lifted this offseason, Smith left team headquarters with a playbook -- not a common practice for an unsigned player considering how teams so closely guard their schemes -- though these are unique circumstances with the NFL in lockout limbo. The 49ers had to be pretty confident in their chances of bringing him back to hand over Harbaugh's playbook.
Smith used that playbook on Monday to help his teammates learn Harbaugh's system and terminology.
In a post-draft news conference, Harbaugh said he expected Smith to be the team's starter and said: "I absolutely think it's a great fit."
Harbaugh said, "Alex Smith is a 49er," and all indications are he will stay put once the lockout is lifted, free agency begins and teams can sign players.
Smith, the 2005 No. 1 overall draft pick out of Utah, passed for 2,370 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games and 10 starts last season, but he also threw 10 interceptions and was sacked 25 times. The 49ers finished 6-10 after a surprising 0-5 start and haven't had a winning season or reached the playoffs since 2002.
Crabtree was second on the 49ers last season in receptions (55), yards (741) and touchdowns (6). Tight end Vernon Davis led the team in each category.
Smith has been credited with organizing Monday's workout, but Crabtree said it wasn't a one-man show.
"It's been everybody," he told the Mercury News. "We texted everybody. I even texted somebody to be here."
However, offensive tackle Joe Staley backed Smith as the camp organizer.
"Camp Alex," Staley said Tuesday following the second day of workouts. "I mean, he's organized everything. My job was to get all the linemen. His job was to get all the skill players.
"He's worked on the script and he's running the meetings. He's shown a lot of leadership this summer as far as keeping everybody together and really communicating with everybody."
Crabtree sat out Tuesday's practice because he had sore feet from running with new cleats on the field turf a day earlier, players said. The wide receiver was in the classroom session in the morning.
Smith said he will not make any public comments until the workouts conclude Thursday. He has hosted smaller, private workouts with some 49ers players this summer and has tried to stay clear of the public eye and free agency talk.
Smith has already asked Staley to help him organize another informal minicamp later this month if there is not a new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players. Between the two of them, they have tried to make sure every player has the opportunity to attend.
Some rookies are staying with veterans, who have helped pay for travel and other expenses. Others have prior commitments and might not be able to make every practice.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.