Smith signs new one-year contract with 49ers, is expected to start By Janie McCauley THE ASSOCIATED PRESS SANTA CLARA, Calif. Joe Thornton Jersey . -- The San Francisco 49ers have their new quarterback: old familiar face Alex Smith. Smith signed his one-year free agent contract Friday as expected, giving new coach and former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh an experienced starter for 2011. "Did I have any of you guys fooled?" Smith joked. Smith walked away after the final game last year unsure where he would land for 2011. It certainly seemed like a long shot he would return to the 49ers, but the lockout -- and Harbaughs high-profile hiring in January -- changed everything for both sides. "Thats kind of why its not good to make decisions right then. Its emotional, you just went through a long season," Smith said. "Its healthy to get away from it and make a sound decision. A lot changed. It started with Coach Harbaugh coming in, sitting down with him, talking with him. It really went from there. For me just making a good decision. There was a lot left here for me. Everything came together and I knew this was the right decision." Within minutes of completing his deal, Smith was on the sidelines for the teams first training camp practice -- even though he cant formally take part in physical activity until Aug. 4 under the new labour requirements. Smith, not in uniform, shagged balls for Harbaugh during a quarterback drill. Defensive tackle Ray McDonald signed a five-year contract and guard-centre Tony Wragge received a one-year contract. Smith took it upon himself to organize workouts and meetings for his teammates during the lockout, sessions that became known as "Camp Alex." Harbaugh noticed and appreciated the QBs initiative. Yet Harbaugh had already anointed Smith as his likely starter months ago, even though he was a free agent with no guarantee of re-signing. The former Stanford coach was confident enough that an agreement would be reached that he handed over his playbook to Smith, whose deal is for a reported US$5 million. Smith, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2005, has faced constant change during his up-and-down tenure with San Francisco and has been regularly booed during his struggles. He has worked for different offensive co-ordinators every year, too. "Alex, I think hes gotten a lot of undue negative publicity about him," cornerback Shawntae Spencer said. "Hes been through so much in his NFL career, different offensive co-ordinators, different systems, things like that. It has to be tough. I went through three or four defensive schemes. Its tough on me and hes been pretty much double that. I can only imagine. It seems he and coach Harbaugh have a really good relationship and respect each other. Coach Harbaugh played the game, he understands the position and understands what Alex is going through." Smith passed for 2,370 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games and 10 starts last season, but he also threw 10 interceptions and was sacked 25 times. The 49ers finished 6-10 after a surprising 0-5 start and havent had a winning season or reached the playoffs since 2002. Smith took over the starting job midway through 2009 and was entrenched as the starter heading into 2010. After separating his non-throwing left shoulder Oct. 24 at Carolina, former coach Mike Singletary turned to 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith for the next five games -- even after Alex Smith was healthy again. Troy Smith went 3-2 as a starter, then it was Alex Smiths turn again for two games, including a commanding win over eventual West champion Seattle. After a flop at San Diego, Singletary turned back to Troy Smith for a must-win game with the Rams on Dec. 26. That 25-17 loss cost the coach his job with one week to go. Jim Tomsula, serving a single-game stint as interim head coach, went with Alex Smith for a win against Arizona in the season finale. From what Harbaugh saw from afar with Smith leading the way this summer, he has high hopes for his man behind centre. "Its obvious that they were a great benefit," Harbaugh said of the Smith-run minicamps. Rookie Colin Kaepernick, the teams second-round draft pick out of Nevada, plans to do his best to win the starting QB job out of camp. The 26-year-old McDonald has started only nine games in his first four NFL seasons, all in 2008. But he is likely to slide into the starting left defensive end spot as a starter -- and McDonald is eager for the new challenge and responsibility. "It really shows that they wanted me back here. I really wanted to be back here," McDonald said. "These past couple years have been tough because Ive been kind of a role player. Now I get to go in there, get out on the field every snap and have a chance to make a bunch of plays for my teammates to win ballgames." Also Friday, the Niners parted ways with veteran centre Eric Heitmann and kicker Joe Nedney after they failed physicals. The 31-year-old Heitmann was placed on season-ending injured reserve last November in his ninth NFL season because of a neck injury that wasnt healing as quickly as the Niners had hoped. He later underwent off-season surgery. When he went on IR, Heitmann hadnt played at all in 2010 after breaking the fibula in his left leg early in training camp on Aug. 9. He was expected to miss up to two months and returned to practice Sept. 29. David Baas took his place on the starting offensive line. Baas is now gone, departed to the New York Giants, so Harbaugh has some decisions to make on an O-line that features leader Joe Staley and returning 2010 first-round draft picks Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati, who started every game as rookies. Adam Snyder is slated to move into the centre position to fill the void left by Heitmann. Antti Niemi Authentic Jersey .J. -- When his team first came together in February, New York Red Bulls coach Mike Petke wasnt sure what he had in Luis Robles. Antti Niemi Jersey . Kendricks deal was announced Thursday night and includes award bonuses. He was 10-13 with a 4.70 ERA last season, and is 64-55 with a 4.38 ERA in seven seasons.The Vancouver Canucks ended a lengthy losing streak in their first appearance after the Olympics. Theyll shoot for another positive result when they host the Minnesota Wild in tonights clash at Rogers Arena. The Canucks went into the NHLs Olympic break mired in an 0-7-0 slump, but halted that slide with Wednesdays 1-0 win over the visiting St. Louis Blues. It had been Vancouvers longest stretch of regulation losses since the 1998-99 season, but goaltender Eddie Lack helped snap the skid with a 20-save shutout performance. "Lack was outstanding," Vancouver head coach John Tortorella said of his rookie goaltender. "Key saves at key times. He calms this team down." Jannik Hansen provided the offense needed for Vancouvers recent win, scoring the games only goal late in the third period. After outshooting St. Louis 28-17 over the first 40 minutes, Vancouver finally broke the scoreless deadlock late in the third when Tom Sestito picked up the puck along the right midboards in his own zone and backhanded a beautiful outlet pass to Hansen. Hansen corralled the disc near the red line and split two defenders near the blue line before skating into the inner half of the right circle and rifling a wrister under the right arm of Jaroslav Halak to make it 1-0 at the 11:13 mark. The Canucks played Wednesdays game without forward Ryan Kesler, who is dealing with a bruised right hand. The American Olympian has been the subject of trade rumours ahead of next weeks deadline and returns to the lineup for tonights tilt. Despite the win on Wednesday, Vancouver was knocked out of a playoff position while idle on Thursday as Dallas moved into the eighth spot in the West with a win over Carolina. Joe Thornton Authentic Jersey. The Canucks are tied with Phoenix and one point back of the Stars. Lack will get another start tonight while Roberto Luongo sits this one out. Luongo won his second gold medal with Team Canada in Sochi after playing a backup role to Carey Price. Tonights test marks the final test for Vancouver before hosting Ottawa in Sundays outdoor battle at BC Place. The Wild posted a third straight win when they came back from the break to post Thursdays 3-0 victory in Edmonton. Darcy Kuemper made 21 saves for his second shutout of the season to anchor the win. Mikael Granlund, Stephane Veilleux and Dany Heatley scored for the Wild, who will aim for their first four-game winning streak since Jan. 2-9. "I thought that our guys had a real good focus on defending tonight and doing it the right way," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. Kuemper is expected to get the start again tonight. Niklas Backstrom is dealing with an abdominal problem at the moment, but he was able to dress as the backup on Thursday. The Wild, who are seventh in the West and six points ahead of the Canucks, are completing a two-game road trip tonight. Minnesota is 11-14-5 as the away team this season. Minnesota beat the a visiting Canucks team 3-2 in a shootout on Dec. 17, giving the Wild wins in three straight and four of the last six meetings in this series. Vancouver, however, has dominated the Wild in B.C. in recent seasons, winning 11 straight at Rogers Arena in this series before Minnesota halted that streak with a 3-1 win on March 18 of last season. ' ' '