49ers' Smith making progress

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Quarterback Alex Smith raised his arms Friday morning after connecting with Michael Crabtree down the field after the wide receiver got behind defenders.

The 49ers hope that is a sign of things to come from their sixth-year quarterback.

Smith completed a strong performance this spring with another solid week of practice, continuing to assert himself behind center as the 49ers concluded their offseason program with a series of minicamp practices.

The rest of his teammates aren't far behind.

Coach Mike Singletary was so satisfied with his team's progress that he canceled Saturday's scheduled practices of what was supposed to be a three-day minicamp session. The 49ers are now off until rookies report for training camp on July 30.

"These guys have worked their tails off all offseason," Singletary said. "I'm very pleased with where we are, so I want to finish today."

Particularly satisfying for Singletary and the rest of the team is the steady progress of Smith, the former No. 1 overall draft pick who has survived some rocky stretches earlier in his career.

Now he's taking a leading role for a team that's expected to contend for the NFC West title this season.

Coming off his best season, Smith has been able to build on his 3-1 finish as the starter last season by finding stability and familiarity with the system and players around him.

That's a change for Smith, who had played in a different offensive system and for a different offensive coordinator in each of his first five NFL seasons.

"I feel really good with where I'm at right now," Smith said. "I really feel like we've taken a step, and I feel I've done that as well. It's been quite a few years since I felt like this. I feel comfortable with where we are and where we're going to go."

With a defense that's developing into one of the better groups in the league, the 49ers focused during the offseason on upgrading their offense.

The 49ers' offense ranked 27th in the league last season and has not finished higher than 26th over the past six seasons.

The 49ers selected offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati in the first round of the draft, and also added rookie running back Anthony Dixon and veteran receiver Ted Ginn.

Davis and Iupati have come along well the past two months and will contend for starting roles this summer. Ginn has added speed and more competition to a young receiving group.

"That was the goal starting the offseason, putting the pieces around Alex to allow him to execute, to allow him to play, having some people to block for him, having receivers do their job," Singletary said. "I think we did that. We feel we can compete (offensively) now and win any football game that we play."

Smith continued to look sharp this week competing against the team's full starting secondary after the arrival of cornerbacks Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer, each of whom practiced with the 49ers for the first time this year on Thursday.

Clements, who missed the final nine games last season with a fractured scapula, trained on his own during the offseason in Arizona while Spencer did the same in Pittsburgh. Both players said they benefited from their spring work away from the team.

The 49ers are counting on strong performances from the two veterans this season in what was regarded as the team's weakest area defensively last year. San Francisco ranked 15th in the NFL last season in total defense, but was 21st in pass defense.

"I was really looking forward to those guys coming in," Smith said. "We've been rolling now the last couple of weeks waiting for those guys to get here, to see what they've brought to the table and see how it affected us. They're better at a lot of things and it's been a good test."

NOTES: The 49ers released sixth-year veteran cornerback Keith Smith and rookie linebacker Brandon Long. Rookie safety Taylor Mays, the team's second-round draft pick, concluded spring practice with two interceptions in team drills Thursday morning. Veterans will be required to report to training camp on July 31. The 49ers will conduct their first summer practice session on Aug. 2.