Willis on Justin Smith: “You can’t really put into words what he means to this defense.”

SANTA CLARA – Patrick Willis spoke at his locker Thursday afternoon. Here’s what he said about how the loss of Justin Smith is affecting the 49ers’ defense.

Q: What do you want to see from you defense against the Cardinals.

WILLIS: Total focus. I want to see a little more attention to detail. I want us to play the defense we’re capable of playing. We have a great defense. I really and truly believe that. A few times we’ve gone out there this year and have not displayed that. When you have what we have on defense, we should be able to go out there each time, and from this point on we have to make sure that we do that on a consistent basis. We have to.

Q: Having said that, how much of a kick in the gut is the loss of Justin Smith?

WILLIS: You can’t really put into words what he means to this defense. Justin is one of our team captains, but more than that, he goes out there and leads by examples. Doesn’t say whole lot, only speaks when he has to, but he goes out there and plays with heart. He’s one of the guys I look up to this in this league. Hopefully we’re able to get him back in the playoffs. We also want him to take care of himself. We’re going to certainly miss him.

Q: What do you guys have to do to compensate so it’s not glaring that you’re playing without Justin Smith?

WILLIS: Each person has to take it up a whole other notch. Ricky Jean is playing for Justin – he has to come in and play at a high level, which I know he will. At the end of the day, our defense has always been based on unselfish guys, guys that are going to go out there and give everything they have and play for one another. I know if we just turn it up some more and have the attention to detail and play the way I know we’re capable of playing – we can’t fill his shoes, nobody can come in and do that, but I know we can certainly get it done. That’s what he have to believe and that’s what we have to do.

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