SANTA CLARA — During his group interview on Monday, Jim Tomsula gushed over his star defensive tackle – Justin Smith.
Here’s what Tomsula said about him.
Q: What do you see from Justin Smith that the lay person doesn’t if they’re just looking for him to get sacks? How much does he mean?
TOMSULA: “I love the guy…He is unique man, he’s a unique cat. He is. He’s extremely intelligent. We laugh a lot because we talk about he’s a high-motor guy. A lot of times you hear high-motor guy and that’s a guy that’s maybe not real talented but he works real hard. Let’s not forget this guy comes out and he’s a phenomenal athlete, man. He’s a tremendous athlete. We’re always laughing when everybody busts his chops, ‘high motor, high motor.’ He’s high motor but he puts it with a whole lot of ability, and then you put a mindset to it. You go into this locker room, you get around with him, you have him here and he’s as down to earth as the day is long. He’s a farm guy, he’s proud of where he’s from, where he grew up and what he does. Obviously the family that he has has raised a heck of a guy. He’s going to sit and chop it up with you and all those things, but then he’s got a switch. When it’s game time, it’s game time. He’s on and off.”
“If I’ve got one problem with him … when he first got here – I fought like heck to get him, my gosh I loved watching the guy on film. I know he played D-end and he’s a D-end here, D-tackle, but he came in and we had helmets on and he broke a couple teeth. He chipped some teeth in practice, we don’t have shoulder pads on. I said, ‘Dude, what are you doing, man?’ He said, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘Are you alright?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m good.’ I said, ‘Alright.’ So, it’s like on and off. That practice tempo thing, he doesn’t have that. There’s not a practice tempo thing. He’s an animal on game day but he’s very intelligent. There are things I think are missed on that. This guy really understands football. He works hard at it. He’s always worked hard at it and he’s just a dream to be around.
Q: You said Justin Smith is “on and off.” The way described it made it seem like he’s always on. What does “off” mean?
TOMSULA: “Off” means he doesn’t have a helmet on. I say him, but it’s that whole group. We’ll be in the locker room laughing, and we’ll sit over there in practice and laugh and have a cut-up before practice starts, and you’ll see them, watch their demeanor. It goes from boom to boom. It’s just, boom! And I’m not saying the world of D-linemen is a normal place. It’s not. And I get all that – it’s the Muppets and bouncing off the walls, but it’s like, Bam! You’re on! If you ever see those kids in kindergarten, some of the kids take the colors and they put nice colors up and they try to draw squares – I think all the guys in my room were the ones with a big mess, a blob of stuff, you know? That’s kind of the way it all is, because it’s nuts in there! It’s crazy! Stuffs flying around and you’re like: “Whoa man! Boom!” That’s just the way it is. And they fit, but it’s not for everybody. You don’t want to talk about it too much because people will really think they’re nuts. But they’re normal. They are, they’re normal outside. But you come in here and it’s like, “Boom!”
Q: Ricky Jean called them Looney Tunes. Is that accurate?
TOMSULA: Yeah, Looney Tunes, the Muppets, they’re just after each other constantly. You don’t get away with a thing. But then in the same sense, somebody has a missed assignment in practice – somebody’s getting slapped in the side of the head. Don’t go there. Ok this is fun over here – we’re laughing at your shorts and the goofy shoes you bought for 200 bucks and your haircut looks ridiculous, and then we go to an assignment, you missed an assignment, you don’t want to go in the room. And it might not necessarily be because the coach is going to get on you, heck I walk in the room and that play’s already been up. They’ve already grabbed the guy in the room and said: “Whoa, what are you doing here? Get that right. We’re not going to have that. You’re not going to do that.”
Q: Justin doesn’t like to talk to us – he’d rather go home and leave other people to the spotlight. Are you happy that the team’s success is starting to focus some attention his way in a bigger, national scope?
TOMSULA: You all go in the locker room. Do you ever walk by Justin’s locker? Do you ever see the Pro Bowl shirts still sitting in there rolled up? Do you ever see the game balls sitting in the locker, sitting on the top shelf? That’s nice. Did we win? That’s really what he is: “Did we win? Let’s go. Let’s win.”