NEW ORLEANS (ABC 4 Sports) - Most NFL players are overjoyed to be at the Super Bowl. But for former University of Utah quarterback Alex Smith, this week is kind of bittersweet.
Smith started the season on fire. He led the San Francisco 49ers to a 6-2 record and has completed 25 of his lat 27 passes when he suffered a concussion. Colin Kaepernick took over, but when Smith was healthy enough to play again, head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to stick with the younger and more mobile Kaepernick.
"It's tough to accept, tough to watch, but we're in the Super Bowl," Smith said at Super Bowl Media Day. "This has been an amazing experience and this is a great team. I love being a part of it. It is bittersweet a little bit, but it's still a great thing to be a part of."
After toiling under six different offensive coordinators in six seasons, Smith had a breakthrough season in 2011 with Harbaugh, leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game. This season, Smith picked up where he left off, but after the concussion, Harbaugh felt Kaepernick gave his team a better chance to win.
It's difficult to criticize Harbaugh's decision considering how Kaepernick has played, especially in the playoffs. Kaepernick set an NFL playoff record for a quarterback with 181 yards rushing in a victory over Green Bay.
"Anytime you're letting the next guy step in and get an opportunity, I fully knew what Colin was potentially capable of," Smith said. "He came in and made the most of it. It's the nature of sports. Things happen, that's just the deal. It's just being ready for the next opportunity. That's all I can control."
But while he may not see any action against the Baltimore Ravens, Smith is still trying to take in as much of Super Bowl week as he can, because he may never get this opportunity again.
"You'd love to be starting and playing, but it's just a blessing to be at a Super Bowl," Smith said. "There are a lot of guys who play a long time who never get here, so I'm enjoying it."
Smith, who led Utah to a perfect 2004 season including a win in the Fiesta Bowl, may get an opportunity to play with another team next year. But this week, he is preparing to play in case something happens to Kaepernick.
"Ya, that's my job," Smith said. "I'll be ready to go. You never know. It's a crazy game, crazy things happen, and it's my job to be ready to go at a moment's notice."
If Smith does get the call, he'll be the first University of Utah quarterback ever to play in a Super Bowl.