Singletary Pulls the Brakes on Smith's Practice

Michael ErlerCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2009

SANTA CLARA, CA - MAY 01:  Quarterbacks Alex Smith #11 and Shaun Hill #13 of the San Francisco 49ers look on during the 49ers Minicamp at their training facilities on May 1, 2009 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

49ers quarterbacks Alex Smith and Shaun Hill might be thinking that Head Coach Mike Singletary is putting them through an emotional roller coaster, but as we all saw at Santa Clara Monday afternoon, it could be a whole lot worse.

After all, the guys could've gotten the afternoon off and decided to spend the day at Great America, the amusement park down the road from their practice complex.

24 thrill-seekers on the "Invertigo," one of the most popular roller coasters at the park, were stuck, suspended 80 feet above the ground as the ride ground to a halt near its peak.

Engineers couldn't restart the ride and the local fire department had to rescue riders one-by-one. A few of the unfortunate riders had to wait up to four hours in the sweltering 95 degree heat to be saved. 

Thankfully no one was harmed, but the park's reputation took a huge hit as the story's been all over Bay Area newspapers and on the Internet as well. It was the third time the Invertigo malfunctioned since it opened nine years ago.

Speaking of reputations taking hits, Smith's resume added yet another negative bullet point yesterday: First 49er to be banished to The Hill.

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The offense was in the midst of a miserable practice. The running backs already had a couple of fumbles (the second one was by Thomas Clayton, I didn't catch who had the first one) and the coaches were not happy.

Smith dropped back to pass, faced some pressure, rolled right, spotted tight end Vernon Davis and had his pass deflected at the line of scrimmage.

After it touched about fifty people, it wound up in the hands of dime back Marcus Hudson for an interception.

Smith looked at Singletary, sagged his shoulders, and marched toward the team's steep hill behind onlooking (and at this point flat out gawking) reporters.

He looked depressed, dejected. Was he on the verge of quitting?

Admittedly I haven't been on the beat very long, but I'd never seen anything like this, and when I asked around, none of the veteran beat writers had either.

It's true that the hill hasn't been around very long , but still the scene was very bizarre.

When the drill ended Smith got up and started to wander down the hill, but was ordered back up by Quarterbacks Coach Mike Johnson. That's about the time that the picture came into focus a bit and we realized it wasn't a self-imposed exile by Smith but rather a coach mandated punishment.

Smith sat back down, a bit embarrassed, and was soon joined by injured wide receiver Brandon Jones for some consolation. I'm not a psychic, but I'm guessing Jones will be among Smith's favorite targets if the two of them ever see the field together this season.

A few minutes after that the entire starting offensive line joined Smith and Jones, and one of them was overheard saying, "We got your back," to the quarterback.

Smith broke into a smile and cheered up after that.

Finally the practice horn sounded and the whole group descended the hill, with Smith getting a brief talk and a clap on the back from Singletary.

Again, the gesture seemed to lift Smith's spirits.

Obviously the whole herd of us wanted to speak to Singletary and/or Smith about this after practice and a 49ers official said that we could get the latter since, "It was Alex who decided to go up there."

I thought it was a punishment?

After keeping everyone waiting for a good half hour, Smith and Hill just had to pick then to test out a new bag of balls with an equipment guy.

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