Teammates were pleased to see the presence of the third-year linebacker, who showed up for work with a clean-cut look days after being activated from San Francisco’s NFI list.
The players in the locker room took turns hollering at Smith, the team’s sack leader, who missed the past five games after voluntarily leaving the team following a late September arrest.
Smith spoke to the media for the first time since he recorded five tackles in a Sept. 22 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Smith's teammates, too, offered their reaction to having an All-Pro linebacker return to the team prior to a Week 10 matchup with the Carolina Panthers.
Willis shares the same agent with Smith and was in constant communication with the team’s top pass-rusher throughout his time away from the Bay Area.
“I care about him as a person,” Willis said. “He’s a good guy. I want any of my teammates to know, whether it’s a good time or a bad time, I’m always available to talk and chat and be there for you the best way I can.”
San Francisco’s fellow defensive co-captain, defensive tackle
In elaborating on those comments, Justin Smith sounded like Aldon Smith could play on Sunday if San Francisco’s coaching staff deemed him ready to suit up on Sunday.
Justin Smith, like Willis, texted Aldon Smith throughout his time away and believes the All-Pro talent has grown from his time away and can help the 49ers in the regular season stretch run.
“Anytime you’re missing a superstar, it’s going to hurt,” Justin Smith said. “Aldon Smith is a superstar in this league, and we’re going to be excited when he’s back out there.”
Willis is continuing to let Aldon Smith know that the team has his back.
“The most important thing he can do is keep a tight circle and let him know we’re here for him and if he wants to talk he can come to us,” Willis said.