SANTA CLARA — Over all those years and thousands of practice snaps, the stingy 49ers defense never got to put a hit on Alex Smith.
And this is a group known for its vicious blows, from sack man Aldon Smith at linebacker to pounding safety Donte Whitner.
So, no surprise Alex Smith's former teammates on the opposite side of the ball will be salivating to finally chase the quarterback down when they face him and the Chiefs in a preseason game at Kansas City on Friday night.
“There's a first time for everything,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said, smiling. “We never got a chance to hit him. This time we can. We're looking forward to it. I know Alex knows we're coming. It's football, man. He's on another team and we have to go out there and play our game.”
Cornerback Carlos Rogers plans to talk trash — because, he insists, Smith will certainly be expecting it from this group.
“He'll probably come after me because we were always talking junk during practices while he was here. I'm going to take a look at the film and see what we can come up with,” Rogers said. “It will be really fun. I'm pretty sure he's going to be talking junk. He's going to want to go at our defense because now he gets the opportunity. When he was here, we didn't really go against the 1 offense unless it was training camp.”
Smith has begun anew in the AFC with the Chiefs after being traded in March. He lost his starting job with San Francisco in November to Colin Kaepernick.
Smith certainly sounds as if he will leave the personal ties out of it Friday — focusing instead on preparing his offense with a matchup against one of the NFL's top defenses in recent years.
“Regardless of the fact that I used to play there, they're a good defensive unit,” he said “They're a really good defensive unit, and they'll be a good test for us. I mean, they don't have many weaknesses on that side of the ball. It'll be a really good test for us.”
Given Smith's long history with the 49ers, an up-and-down, eight-year tenure — filled with numerous promotions and demotions, not to mention injuries — after they selected him with the No. 1 draft pick out of Utah in 2005, he still has many supporters in his old locker room.
It was Smith who took it upon himself to lead San Francisco's players in workouts at nearby San Jose State during the 2011 NFL lockout, a step in his leadership that put the team in position to end a franchise-worst stretch of eight seasons without a playoff berth or winning record.
For that, and so many other things, coach Jim Harbaugh is grateful to this day. Even if he made the tough choice to go with Kaepernick for last season's stretch run. Smith largely thrived under the direction of Harbaugh, a 15-year NFL quarterback himself.
Come Friday, both sides will try to keep all the mixed emotions off the field.
“Now we'll get a chance to hit him,” Rogers said. “He had on the jersey and we couldn't touch the quarterback, so I'm pretty sure our D-line will be happy about that, too.”