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Notes: Alex Smith seeks reasons for his demotion

The Niners have taken the controls from Alex Smith (left) and given them to second-year QB Colin Kaepernick.

file/gerald herbert/associated press

The Niners have taken the controls from Alex Smith (left) and given them to second-year QB Colin Kaepernick.

Alex Smith is trying to understand how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s not an easy thing for the NFL’s fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with this week, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection in 2005.

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Smith spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.

Smith is now completely healthy from the concussion he suffered in that Nov. 11 game and has been medically cleared to play. But he’ll be Kaepernick’s backup for the second consecutive week.

‘‘I feel like the only thing I did to lose my job was get a concussion,’’ Smith said.

Smith was playing some of the best football of his career when he was injured and left in the second quarter of the 24-24 tie. Smith ranks fifth in the NFL with a passer rating of 104.1 and leads the league with a 70.0 completion percentage.

‘‘You kind of state your case with your play and I felt like I’ve done that,’’ Smith said. ‘‘It’s tough. It stings the most just because I really felt there was something special going on here and you sacrifice and invest so much time. I felt like I was playing good football. I have no idea what’s going to happen from here. All I can do now is just prepare and get ready.’’

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Smith had a 21-6-1 record in those games and played a significant role in San Francisco’s rise back to prominence last year and continued success this season.

‘‘At this point, what’s talk going to do?’’ Smith said. ‘‘I feel like he made up his mind, and he’s not a guy that didn’t put thought into it already. I don’t get to make those decisions. That’s what he gets paid to do. I play football. So that’s what I’m going to continue to do. Continue to get ready, and then make the most of my next opportunity.’’

Hearings underway

Lawyers for players appealing NFL suspensions in the Saints bounties case crossexamined former Saints assistant coach Mike Cerullo Thursday, and former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is scheduled for Friday.

Lawyers for the league and the NFL Players Association spent more than nine hours in a Washington office building. Former commissioner Paul Tagliabue is overseeing the latest round of player appeals.

Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith have said they plan to be present Friday when Williams is slated to be there. New Orleans lost on the road to Atlanta, 23-13, on Thursday night.

Jets coach unhappy

Jets offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo says rotating Matt Slauson and Vladimir Ducasse at left guard is ‘‘a directive from high above me.’’

Clearly unhappy with that decision, which comes from coach Rex Ryan, DeGuglielmo raved about Slauson while saying that Ducasse, a second-round pick from UMass in 2010, is ‘‘playing well enough to be an every third series guy. Maybe.’’

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for Ducasse, who has twice been beaten out for the starting job — once in 2010 and again this past summer — by Slauson.

‘‘Slauson is a big, tough, smart, strong kid,’’ DeGuglielmo said of the 2009 sixth-round pick out of Nebraska. ‘‘That’s what he is. There are too few of those guys in the world.’’

But, Ducasse is still getting a handful of snaps per game — and that hasn’t sit well with Slauson or DeGuglielmo. Slauson begrudgingly took a pay cut before this season and is a free agent after this year, while Ducasse is a slowly developing player.

‘‘What’s best is for me to do what I’m told to do,’’ DeGuglielmo said. ‘‘That’s what’s best.’’

McClain not welcome

Linebacker Rolando McClain remained a member of the Raiders despite being told to stay out of practice for a second straight day and not to report to the team facility. The eighth overall pick in 2010 is stuck in limbo a day after being sent out of practice by coach Dennis Allen for undisclosed reasons.

‘‘There’s going to be consequences to his actions and it’s a team-related issue,’’ Allen said. ‘‘I don’t really want to get into the details of it. We asked him not to come to practice today.’’

Vick still sidelined

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, injured Nov. 11, did not pass a league-mandated concussion test this week and will not return to practice until he does . . . Tim Tebow was limited in practice again with two broken ribs, leaving the Jets backup quarterback’s status uncertain for the team’s game Sunday against the Cardinals . . . Jacksonville could be without starting receivers Justin Blackmon (groin) and Cecil Shorts III (hamstring) at Buffalo on Sunday. Both wideouts apparently were injured in practice Wednesday. They sat out practice Thursday. Wideout Laurent Robinson is on injured reserve after sustaining his fourth concussion, leaving the team with rookie Kevin Elliott and two players added to the roster Tuesday.

Surgery for Benson

Injured Packers running back Cedric Benson will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season after having surgery Wednesday on his sprained left foot. . . . Dallas running back DeMarco Murray was a limited participant in practice in what coach Jason Garrett said was the most football work the second-year pro has done since spraining his right foot on Oct. 14 . . . Bears return specialist Devin Hester (concussion) and guard Chris Spencer (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Seattle . . . Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (strained right calf) appears ready to play for the first time since Oct. 7 after practicing for the second straight day.

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