NEW ORLEANS -- Wave after wave they came at 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, as unrelenting as the Baltimore Ravens defense.
Smith stood tall amid the crush of media day reporters Tuesday at the Superdome. His was strictly a ground-level session, while some 30 yards away, Colin Kaepernick answered questions at an elevated podium along with coach Jim Harbaugh and 12 other high-profile 49ers.
It's been that way since Week 11, when Smith was held out with a concussion and Kaepernick flourished against the Chicago Bears, providing the impetus for Harbaugh to replace a starting quarterback who was completing 70.2 percent of his passes.
Smith still is enough of a story to generate considerable media interest, with hundreds of reporters taking turns getting close enough to watch and listen to him play the good soldier.
The only trace of an edge came when it was suggested that perhaps Smith ought to be rooting for Kaepernick to throw five interceptions Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I think that's disgusting. Why do you play football?" Smith said. "Why do you play a team sport? If it's all about yourself, go play golf or tennis. I'm not saying all this has been easy. It hasn't. But if you can't be happy for a teammate's success, there's something wrong with you."
Smith unwittingly made the news cycle Monday when Profootballtalk.com reported he would demand a release rather than wait for a possible trade. Smith is due a $7.5 million bonus should he be on the roster April 1, giving the 49ers incentive to move him.
"I don't know where this stuff comes from," Smith said, labeling the information "ridiculous."
For perspective on his plight as a backup, Smith looks no further than the story of Brett Elliott, his former teammate at the University of Utah.
In the third game of the Utes' 2003 season, Elliott broke his wrist. Smith took over, went 21-1 as a starter, finished fourth in the voting for the Heisman Trophy and eventually became the No. 1 pick in the 2005 NFL draft.
Elliott transferred to Linfield College, where he eventually won a Division III national championship.
"I played well those three weeks, he didn't get to come back," Smith said. "I respected the way he handled it back then. I know we were able to remain close through that, and it was hard for him."
Harbaugh said Monday that Smith has been doing as much coaching for Kaepernick as anyone else. Smith shrugged off the compliment, but quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst said Smith's familiarity with Utah's spread offense has made for valuable contributions since the 49ers have added elements of the pistol and spread formations.
"He's actually watching tape and saying, 'We might want to do this, we might want to go there,' " Chryst said. "It's a testament to who he is and how he's wired."
Scott Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback, said he could "write an essay about what it means to be a pro just from watching Alex. The most impressive thing to me is that when he wasn't starting, nothing changed in our quarterback room. I mean, nothing."
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman credited Smith's tutoring of Kaepernick and also leans on Smith in terms of strategy.
"I still rely on him to form and shape the game plan," Roman said.
Kurt Warner, the NFL Network analyst who won a Super Bowl ring for the 1999 Rams after Trent Green went out in the opener with a knee injury, hopes Smith understands his contributions as Kaepernick has become a star.
"One of my proudest moments was watching Trent Green get his Super Bowl ring at our ring ceremony," Warner said. "People forgot that he'd worked hard all offseason and helped instill in his team the belief that we could win a Super Bowl.
"Alex should take great pride in his team getting here because for everything he's done for the last two years, he's a huge part of why they're here."