SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh said Tuesday that he has "great respect" for backup quarterback Alex Smith but indicated that the 49ers owes him no special favors when it comes to where he's playing in 2013.

Smith, who has a year remaining on his 49ers contract, wants to return to a starting role next season. The team could give him a fresh start by trading or releasing him. But Harbaugh said that would be a business decision, not a personal one.

"I don't think any player has those wishes granted when they're under contract," Harbaugh said when asked whether Smith had earned additional consideration. "And everything's different and every scenario is unique. Certainly something that we're not going to delve into and get into specifics at this point."

Smith sustained a concussion and lost his job to Colin Kaepernick at mid-season. If he is still on the roster beyond April 1, the 49ers will owe him about $8.5 million.

"We feel good, great, about our quarterback situation,'' Harbaugh said. "You can't have enough good quarterbacks."

Smith, who has played eight seasons in San Francisco, completed 70.2 percent of his passes this season, with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions. He could be an attractive trade target for teams looking for someone with starting experience.

Asked if this might be the end for Smith's tenure in San Francisco, safety Donte Whitner said:


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"I wish Alex the best. He was a great teammate. If this is his last time ... I know he'll go and use the situation this year and what he's been through to fuel him to go get wins and push his team to the playoffs.

"I truly believe that, I truly believe there's something out for Alex."