Leadership within the 49ers locker room won’t let the team get overconfident after starting the season 5-1 heading into the bye week.
But those veterans within the walls of 4949 Centennial Blvd. admittedly have been impressed with the contributions from some of the team’s youngest players.
Two in particular, rookies Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver have especially caught the attention of their teammates in recent weeks.
Smith, a pass-rushing linebacker, recorded a career-high 2.0 sacks (one caused a Detroit safety), four tackles and a forced fumble against the Lions. This came one week after Smith was named Pepsi’s Rookie of the Week for his strong performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith leads all rookies with 5.5 sacks on the season, and leads the 49ers in sacks, too.
The contributions from Smith, a rookie out of Missouri selected No. 7 overall has also impressed a fellow Missouri football alum, who bares the same last name.
Said Justin Smith of the 49ers emerging rookie linebacker: “He’s got 5.5 sacks and scored two points in the game… The week before that, he had two huge plays. He keeps coming on, getting better and better every week. So far, so good. He’s been a good player.”
As for Aldon himself, the rookie is pleased with his progress, but is not satisfied with what he’s accomplished. The rookie linebacker played his most snaps of the season against Detroit as the 49ers utilized their nickel personnel against the Lions single-back, three receiver formations.
“We’re definitely excited about where we’re going,” said the linebacker, who uses athleticism and wingspan to get to opposing quarterbacks, “but it’s not time for us to get cocky about what’s happened. It’s just the beginning. We’re working hard to keep this thing going.”
Smith’s attitude has impressed his teammates. But the production has really stood out.
Same goes for third-round pick Chris Culliver, who defended Lions star wideout Calvin Johnson solidly on Sunday when the 49ers went to their nickel defense.
“He’s playing tough, keeps coming along, too,” Justin Smith said of Culliver.
The contributions from both Aldon Smith and Culliver have been key in the mind of the veteran defensive tackle, who has been named to back-to-back Pro Bowls with the 49ers.
“That’s what your high-round draft picks in your rookie class have to do,” Smith said. “They have to come in and help you a little bit. They’ve definitely done that.”
Culliver had three tackles and a pass breakup against the Lions.
Both rookies continue to harp on working to get better. Spending time around a hungry 49ers locker room has only fueled their quest to become the best they can be.
“Every time we’re on the field,” Aldon Smith said, “We’re just getting better. Both of us.”
The rookie linebacker admits, “It’s definitely cool being a part of something like this, something special.”
But ultimately, veterans like Justin Smith set the tone for the defense and the locker room.
A 5-1 record is a positive development, but by no means is it the end goal.
“We just have to take these game one at a time,” the veteran said. “I really don’t look at the record or if it’s 1-5 or 5-1 to be honest. We have a game in two weeks and we’ll just keep going at it that way.”
Tags: Aldon Smith, Chris Culliver, Justin Smith
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