Before practice, a member of the 49ers public relations staff walked down the path from the locker room to the practice field with Justin Smith as the group asked A.J. Jenkins questions about being a rookie. Jenkins and Smith, besides the team they’re employed by, couldn’t be more different. One’s small, young and uncertain. The other is gigantic, experienced and knows exactly who he is and what he wants.
Smith, sipping from a plastic cup full of iced tea with a lemon, the man who finished third in the voting for 2011 AP Defensive Player of the Year was just as you’d expect him to be: straightforward, intense, and huge. Don’t forget huge — traps on traps on traps. After seeing the guy up close for the first time, let’s just say it’s less of a mystery how Smith is able to regularly outmuscle two offensive linemen at a time.
I broke up his 7-minute interview into eight shorter clips with a quote from each, all of the videos lasting between 21 and 38 seconds except for the first. Put all these clips together and here’s the overall picture I took away: Smith knows he’s in the twilight of his career — partly because he doesn’t want to hang on unless he can play at his current level — and the time is now for the 49ers to take advantage of the group they’ve put together and win the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl.
1. The 49ers’ championship “window” won’t be open long. (1:16)
“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 … With some of the guys that we have, with free agency and certain things like that, 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, let’s go about this in a way that … we’re not building, let’s do it this year and see what happens next year.”
2. On the 49ers’ Super Bowl expectations… (0:36)
“That’s our goal. 31 other teams have that goal, if they necessarily believe it or not. I’ve said that before in offseasons and think (looks incredulously to the side, chuckles slightly).”
Note: Smith’s case shows that even the very best players need help to become “winners.” He probably would have played on teams that ranged from terrible to mediocre his entire career if the 49ers didn’t hire Jim Harbaugh. Now Smith is coming off one of the best defensive performances in NFC Championship history.
3. Minicamp: more for the speedsters than the guys in the trenches (0:22)
“I think it’s been really good for passing, secondary, all the route combinations the offense does. But offensive line, defensive line, there’s only so much you can do with these. But it’s been good, we’ve been cleaning up some of the stuff from last year that we can improve on.”
4. Smith compliments his teammates on the d-line (0:32)
“Front seven pretty much works out together quite a bit. Some of the strongest guys in the NFL with Isaac and Ray and Dobbs and some of these guys, Ricky Jean, just freaky strong.”
Note: this was from Smith’s answer to a question about HIS OWN workout regimen.
5. 49ers locker room: devoid of divas (0:38)
“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 guys, just trying to play football. Randy had all these ‘What’s he like?’, he’s been one of the coolest guys, hardest-working guys I’ve ever met. Media-wise, that wasn’t the perception that he had. It just goes to show the guys they’re bringing in.”
Note: check out how Smith glances around at different reporters as he talks about how the media portrays Randy Moss.
6. Nearing the end (0:35)
“I figure I got three more good years in me, four good years. I don’t want to be the guy who comes in, third down guy … I’m figuring let’s go! Time is of the essence for me.”
7. No rest … ever (0:34)
“I like to get into a rhythm, get the feel of it. O-linemen don’t come off, right? There you go … I figure I’ve been doing it that way 11 years, what’s a couple more.”
8. No vacation either (0:28)
Do you take vacation time?
“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 like that.”