One day, you’ll probably be able to find Justin Smith roaming around America in an RV. But that day isn’t coming up any time soon.
On the verge of his 12th season as a pro, Smith said he probably won’t be taking anymore vacations until his playing career is over. At the moment, he is part of one of the NFL’s most complete teams, featuring a talent-laden roster and respected coaching staff.
Throughout the offseason, Smith has tried to impart some wisdom on his fellow teammates as they embark on the 2012 campaign.
“Your team isn’t always stacked forever,” Smith said.
Given the current landscape of the NFL – full of player movement and free agency – Smith said he realizes that the 49ers have a “window” to achieve some great things.
“We’re not building,” Smith said. “Let’s do it this year and see what happens next year; take a year-by-year approach. This year we feel that if we put everything together and work the way that we need to work, hopefully we can accomplish our goal.”
One thing that hasn’t changed about Smith throughout his career is his fanatical offseason workout regimen. It’s allowed him to stay on the field more than almost any other defensive lineman, despite his passionate playing style. The way he sees it, if offensive linemen aren’t taking plays off, why should he?
In Smith’s eyes, he only has about three or four more years of good football left, so he wants to take advantage of every opportunity he has.
“I don’t want to be the third-down guy and play 17 (snaps),” Smith said. “I’m thinking, ‘Let’s go.’ Time is of the essence for me, personally. Not everybody else; we have a young defense. But I think everybody feels the urgency and we got the guys right now and let’s not wait.”
One thing that has changed within the past year is the culture and the mood within the locker room. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio recently singled out Smith as one of the team’s hardest working players, saying, “It always helps when your best players are your hardest workers. And he definitely falls in that category.”
But listening to Smith, that high-profile work ethic doesn’t start and stop with him.
“This is a unique locker room,” Smith said. “You don’t really have the gigantic egos. Some of the best players in there are the most down to earth guys, solid guys just trying to play football.”
The camaraderie is also strong between the players and the coaches, as Smith said everyone is now “speaking the same language” after developing a solid rapport throughout the year. While Smith doesn’t think the 49ers are a shoo-in to repeat their 2011 success, he does view his team as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
“I’ve said that before in offseasons, but you know,” Smith said with a laugh. “But that’s our goal and that’s our mindset and that’s what we want to accomplish. But like I said, 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.”
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