SANTA CLARA – Vic Fangio spoke in the media tent Tuesday afternoon. Here’s what he said about Justin Smith and the rest of the 49ers defense, courtesy of the 49ers.
Is DT Justin Smith closer to full strength and how’s he looking out there?
“He’s doing fine. I don’t think we’ll know for sure until Sunday comes.”
But, what has he shown you in terms that you think he might be ready?
“Well, he’s told me he’s ready and he’s ready to go. And that’s enough for me.”
Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was saying that just having him out there elevates the character of the defense, just his presence. How so?
“Well, he’s a leader both by example and verbally, and more so by example. So, he plays with a tenacity and an effort level that’s second to none. And it’s just contagious to everybody.”
I’m sure he’ll want to play. At what point do you look out and say he can’t play? How do you stop a guy like that from playing if—?
“I’m not involved in that decision. That’s between him and the medical people.”
OK. But, if you’re watching—you know we had a situation Sunday where there was a question if guy’s hurt. His performance, was it hurting the team, helping the team? Will you be involved in that sort of thing?
“Well, from my point of view, if he’s not playing up to his standard or close to it then we’ll put the next guy in. Because it’s always been my experience, somebody at 80 percent is not as good as the next guy at 100 percent.”
Is there any way to gauge his percentage from what he’s done in practices so far?
In that first game, CB Perrish Cox played a lot on him. He hasn’t played, I’m sure that’s the most he played by far in the season. How have you seen him progress and learn the defense better through the entire course of the regular season?
“Well, he’s done well. Obviously that game, just because of the matchups, he played more and he was prepared to play more, because we kind of had the feeling that the game could evolve that way. So, he had a lot of practice time. But, he’s done well with limited practice time. Gets his handful of plays every play and he’s ready to go.”
I want to ask you about Jim Harbaugh. We always describe him as being intense, as being maybe quirky sometimes. You know him very well. How would you describe Jim and his personality?
“I don’t know. I’m not going to go there. You guys can have fun with that on your own.”
In your defensive scheme, how integral is the physical play of your safeties, S Donte Whitner and S Dashon Goldson?
“Well, physical play of all 11 guys out there is integral, not just those two guys. We’ve got to do a great job of tackling in this game. These guys kept throwing a lot of short passes that they like to get their receivers to catch and run with and break some tackles. If we don’t have a good game of tackling, we probably won’t have a good game defensively.”
Jim Harbaugh the other day said that LB Aldon Smith was one of the guys that really can benefit from the rest from the bye week. What have you seen from him as the season came to a close? Was he starting to get fatigued do you think out there?
“I really don’t think so. No more than anybody else has. He played very well in the New England game. He didn’t have any sacks, but he had a lot of great pressures in that game. He had a chance for some plays in the Seattle game that he usually makes and didn’t make. And he played fine in the last game. But, I’m sure he’s tired, or was tired just like everybody else was after 16 games and playing as much as he did. But, he’ll be fine now. He’s only 22 or 23 years old. He’s ready to go.”
Why would you not take a chance to describe Jim?
“Because we don’t have enough time. I think Jim, I’ll give you one sentence. And I think it’s a good statement. He’s very serious about his job and his profession, but he doesn’t take himself seriously.”