SANTA CLARA – Justin Smith spoke to Bay Area reporters Thursday afternoon. Here’s what he said.
Q: Given the defense’s struggles when you got hurt last year, what did you learn about how important your role is and what you mean to this defense?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think we want to look to 2013.
Q: What are you focusing on this year?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think there are some things we can clean up. I think we had a really good defense last year, but I think there are some things we can clean up. Coach Fangio talked to us about what we need to improve on. That’s what we went over on our first day and that’s what our focus is going forward.
Q: You said last month you were close to being full strength. Are you there now?
JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah, I feel pretty good. It’s here now so, yup, it’s 100 percent. It feels good. Ready to go.
Q: You, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were all hurt at the end of last season. Does that point to the fact that you guys could use more time off during the season, more relief from the backups?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think it’s just part of football. Some years you’re going to have more injuries, some years you’re going to have less injuries. It’s football. People are jumping into each other. That kind of stuff is going to happen, but I hope it doesn’t happen this year.
Q: How has your view of Kaepernick evolved since last year’s training camp?
JUSTIN SMITH: That’s one thing that’s cool about this game or any sport, it’s all opportunity. Kaepernick got his opportunity last year, went out there and ran with it. He did a hell of a job and now he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He seized the moment and it seems like he’s still doing that. He’s working his tail off, leading by example and showing the other young guys how to do it. It’s pretty cool watching from the beginning.
Q: Does who play quarterback have an effect on the defense? Alex Smith led long, methodical drives and Kaepernick is more of a quick-strike quarterback.
JUSTIN SMITH: I think our basic philosophy is it doesn’t matter what they do, our job is to go out there and get the ball back as soon as possible. It’s good to have a dynamic threat like Kaepernick on your side as opposed to chasing after him all of the time. Other than that, wherever we are on the field it’s our job to get the ball back.
Q: You said you wanted to tighten up a few areas and in the playoffs the defense did give up more points than usual. What were those things you want to clean up?
JUSTIN SMITH: There are just some little things. Football always boils down to technique, how you play within the framework of the defense. I think the season wears on, you start playing playoffs games a couple seasons in a row, maybe you think as a unit you can walk out there and make it happen, but it always goes back to fundamentals and basics. I think we realized that. That’s what we need to re-focus on.
Q: How have you adjusted to the faster quarterbacks coming into the league?
JUSTIN SMITH: Something we’ve focused on a bunch is the read option. A lot of teams are doing it. It’s like I said, the Wildcat used to be big, too. But, we’ll see what happens. I know as far as our defense and how we’re preparing, I think we’re going to be ready to stop it.
Q: You’ve been teammates with Ahmad Brooks dating back to his days on the Bengals. Does his recent incident call into question for you where he is as a person?
JUSTIN SMITH: Next question.