Sports

49ers quarterback Smith says he's cool with Nolan

SANTA CLARA -- A day after saying he felt Mike Nolan was trying to undermine him in the 49ers' locker room, quarterback Alex Smith on Tuesday met with Nolan and issued a statement affirming his relationship with his coach and the 49ers.

"I can see how an article like this can be very damaging, but I know my relationships with coach Nolan and my teammates are stronger than that," Smith said in the statement. "... I never intended this to be a distraction for the team or their preparation for the upcoming game."

Smith's frayed relationship with Nolan has been well documented.

On Nov. 14, Smith told a large media contingent his shoulder and forearm issues were worse than previously reported and that he wasn't happy with how Nolan downplayed the injuries. Nolan, in turn, reacted angrily that Smith had taken his complaint to the media and continued to insinuate Smith's issue was little more than soreness.

On Monday, Smith used his most forceful language yet in an interview with the San Jose Mercury-News. Smith said he felt Nolan was trying to undermine him in the 49ers' locker room by questioning his toughness.

"He came out and said some things to the team," Smith said in the story, which ran Tuesday. "It was like he was telling his side of it and I didn't want to get into it. ... That was my biggest concern when he did that: I felt it was trying to undermine me with my teammates."

Those worlds touched off a whirlwind on the Internet and on Bay Area sports talk radio Tuesday, with many observers questioning how Smith and Nolan could still coexist.

Nolan, first on KNBR radio Tuesday morning and later in a statement, insisted he and Smith would be fine.

"The relationship Alex and I have developed over the past three years is stronger than a negative news story," Nolan said in the statement. "Our focus is on getting Alex healthy and our team prepared for Cincinnati."

Smith was injured on the third play of the 49ers' game against Seattle on Sept. 30 when Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard drove him hard into the ground on a sack. Smith attempted to return for the team's Oct. 21 game against the New York Giants, but was slowed by a forearm injury that affected his grip on the ball. Smith also is upset Nolan and the 49ers never acknowledged the severity of that injury.

Smith will fly to Birmingham, Ala., today and will have his shoulder surgically repaired by orthopedist Dr. James Andrews on Thursday. Andrews will attempt to reattach the shoulder with the collarbone. The looseness in that connection has been at the root of Smith's pain and discomfort.

The recovery is expected to last two months, which means Smith could be throwing again by the time the 49ers begin their spring practices.

PETRINO BACK TO COLLEGE -- Just 13 games into a miserable debut as Atlanta's coach, Petrino stunningly announced his resignation, then accepted a job as Arkansas' head coach. The Falcons were 3-10 under him.

"Today was a day of decision," Petrino said. "It was difficult on one side, very easy on the other. It was difficult to leave Atlanta, the staff, players, fans. The timing of it probably is the thing that made it most difficult. Coming to Arkansas was the easy part."

Petrino's stint was one of the shortest for a non-interim coach since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Pete McCulley was fired after starting out 1-8 with San Francisco in 1978, and Sid Gillman lasted only 10 games in his second stint as San Diego coach, going 4-6 in 1971 before quitting.

Bee news services contributed to this report.

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