Mays, a second-round draft pick in April, has started the past six games, including Sunday against the Rams. However, Mays played only a handful of snaps after the opening series, with Smith getting the most playing time of his career.
Smith knew he would play some, but not that much.
The unspoken reason is Mays has struggled in pass coverage, and the 49ers needed to make a change. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman said he sees the difference between the two when watching video.
"For sure, I feel like Smith moves a little better laterally and he covers a little more ground," said Freeman, who added Mays is "talented as well."
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