NEW ORLEANS — Colin Kaepernick walked into the New Orleans Downtown Marriott, the scene for Wednesday morning's media session with the San Francisco 49ers, and saw this: A huge close-up photo of himself preparing to throw, an illustration so large it covered the wall of the hotel lobby.
The images of Kaepernick and the Ravens' Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis virtually drape The Big Easy.
They're playing the leading roles of Super Bowl XLVII as the buildup continues toward Sunday. Kaepernick, the 49ers quarterback from Turlock, conceded the week's strange brew of media commitments as the nation gears up toward the season's biggest game.
"It's a little bit weird for me," he admitted. "It's not necessarily crazy, but it's something different."
The questions come almost nonstop at each interview about Kaepernick's relationship with Alex Smith, the veteran quarterback Kaepernick replaced nine games ago. It was a provocative move by coach Jim Harbaugh, given the fact that Smith performed at a high level for more than half the season, and that he originally was replaced because of a concussion.
Smith, an honest and straight- talking athlete since his arrival in San Francisco, has handled a difficult situation as well as possible. Remember, he led the 49ers to the NFC championship game a year ago and would have reached the Super Bowl if not for two muffed punts against the New York Giants.
"It's been tough at times, for sure, tough to accept, tough to watch, but we're in the Super Bowl, and this has been an amazing experience," Smith said. "It's a great team, I love being a part of it. I have said it before, it's bittersweet a little bit, but still, it's been a great thing to be a part of."
Kaepernick validated Harbaugh's hunch with his explosive and dynamic style. His strong arm and speed he literally pulls away from defenders have brought graphic new dimensions to the San Francisco offense. That he wasn't comfortable waiting for his chance says a lot about his confidence.
"It was tough watching this team and not being able to contribute," said Kaepernick, a second-round draft pick in 2011 from the University of Nevada who didn't play much as a rookie. "For me, what kept me going was the fact that I might get out there. When I did, I needed to take advantage of it. I think that is the biggest thing."
Virtually all observers agree Smith will find new employment in the NFL next season. He looks good to several teams, and he'll receive the second huge paycheck of his career. It's a better-than- good consolation prize and it also might explain Smith's graciousness through a difficult time. Then again, he's never been less than gracious.
"Alex has been phenomenal and he's done nothing but things to help this team," Kaepernick said. "He's done nothing but help me. I mean, he's been great through it."
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron on Twitter, @modbeesports.