SANTA CLARA – Justin Smith philosophized about his team and his future this morning at the 49ers facility. He said he’s got three, maybe four more good years of football in him, and that the Niners window to win the Super Bowl is right now. Here’s everything he said.
Q: How’s minicamp going?
JUSTIN SMITH: It’s been good, every day just keep installing, getting everything done that you can get done. We’re kind of limited nowadays, but you can still get all your install in, some of your cleanups, go over some of the stuff that you can improve on from last year. I think we’ve gotten better in that regard.
Q: Why limited?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think it’s been really good for passing and the secondary and all the route combinations the offense does, but offensive line, defensive line – there’s only so much you can do. But it’s been good. We’ve been cleaning up some of the stuff from last year we felt we could improve on.
Q: Have you seen progress from the younger defensive linemen?
JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah. I think a few of them, especially Will (Tukuafu), (DeMarcus) Dobbs and Ricky (Jean Francois), I think those guys could start on a lot of teams. Anytime you have depth like that on your team it’s a good thing. That’s one thing we’ve got going for us right now.
Q: Dobbs had such a strong preseason last year. What did he need to work on this year?
JUSTIN SMITH: With any young guy, it’s understanding how the offense is attacking you, when you can take your chances inside the defense and things like that. That’ll make you a little more productive, and he’s been all ears along with all those other guys. They’re going to be really good players.
Q: Do you hate to come off the field?
JUSTIN SMITH: I like to get into a rhythm, get the feel of it. O-linemen don’t come off, right? So, there you go.
Q: Very few defensive linemen played as much as you did last season. Could you be even better if you had fewer snaps in the course of a game?
JUSTIN SMITH: I don’t know. I’m really not trying to find out. I figure I’ve been doing it that way 11 years, what’s a couple more?
Q: Does it help that you go against the same guy all game and by the end you’ve worn him down a little bit?
JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah. I just figured if they’re out there (offensive linemen), you can be out there. They’re not turning and running to the ball, but I don’t think it’s that big of a factor personally.
Q: Is there a different mindset in your locker room this offseason?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think the mindset that I’ve kind of been spreading a little bit to the guys is, “Your team isn’t always stacked forever.” With free agency, the way drafts are set up – if you have successful seasons you get the lower end of the draft – you have certain windows. You don’t want to get into that: “Do we have two years? Three years?” I wouldn’t say that. I know with some of the guys that we have and with free agency, we’re not going to be able to keep this team together forever. Even age-wise, the whole team won’t be the same. I’m kind of stressing, “We’re not building, let’s do it this year.” Take a year-by-year approach, and I think this year if we feel we’ve put everything together and we work the way that we need to work, hopefully we can accomplish our goal.
Q: Is that fueled by the fact that the front office brought back the entire defense?
JUSTIN SMITH: I think they won’t tell you they feel the same way, but I think they do feel the same way. Let’s go out and let’s try to hammer this thing home. That’s our goal and that’s 31 other teams’ goal as well. It’s going to be a tough one to achieve but we feel like we have the team do it.
Q: How has the atmosphere around here changed since last year?
JUSTIN SMITH: Last year there was a new coaching staff – they never met us, we never met them, we didn’t know what type of scheme they were going to run. You get into a year along, you’re speaking the same language, you’re not sitting their saying: “What do you call this? We used to call it this, now what do you call that?” We should just be that much farther ahead. But it’s not cumulative – you’ve got to start all the way back over and do it from Game 1.
Q: Do you take vacation time?
JUSTIN SMITH: Not really. I figure in a couple years before I find what else I’m going to do I’ll take some time then, get an RV or something. Why not?
Q: What are your plans for when you have time off before training camp?
JUSTIN SMITH: There’s going to be a pretty big group of us around here. I may go back to Missouri for a little bit, but not very long.
Q: You mentioned windows. Do you think about your own window?
JUSTIN SMITH: Sure. I figure I’ve got three more good years in me, four more good years. I don’t want to be the guy who becomes the third down guy who plays 17 (snaps). I don’t want to do that. I’m figuring let’s go, you know? Time is of the essence for me, not everybody else. We have a young defense, but I think everybody feels the urgency and we’ve got the guys right now. Let’s not wait.
Q: Has your offseason work regimen increased as you’ve gotten older or has it always been pretty much like this?
JUSTIN SMITH: I’d say pretty much like this. We’ve got a good group here, guys competing against each other. The front seven works out together quite a bit, some of the strongest guys in the NFL with Isaac (Sopoaga) and Ray (McDonald) and (DeMarcus) Dobbs and Ricky Jean – just freaky strong. You compete against all those guys and it makes you better.
Q: Do you feel like your other teammates watch how you go about your business?
JUSTIN SMITH: This is a unique locker room. You don’t really have the gigantic egos. Some of the best players in there are the most down-to-earth, solid guys who are just trying to play football. Everyone wants to know what Randy (Moss) is like. He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met.
Q: Do you feel that you guys are definitely Super Bowl contenders?
JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah, that’s our goal. 31 other teams have that same goal, I don’t know if they necessarily believe it or not. I’ve said before in offseasons and then…(looks away, rolls his eyes and snorts), but that’s our goal, that’s our mindset and that’s what we want to accomplish. They’re not just going to give us a W for walking out there. We’re going to get everybody’s best game this year and we’re going to have to play even better than we did last year to have the same success. We know that and we’re prepared to go and try to do that.