San Francisco’s team-leader in sacks (4.5), wore pads for the first time in six weeks during Wednesday’s practice. Smith took part in pass-rushing drills and went through a full practice for the first time since he took a voluntary leave from the team.
Jim Harbaugh didn’t want to reveal if Smith would play against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday, but Vic Fangio shared more insight into how the team views Smith’s upcoming role.
“I’m sure he’ll play some,” the 49ers defensive coordinator said. “We’re monitoring the situation. If nothing happens between now and then, I’m anticipating that, but nothing is etched in stone yet.”
Smith has to show he’s mentally and physically able to play. The team will continue to evaluate his practice performance and ultimately decide if he’s ready to contribute on Sunday.
“He may not be ready conditioning-wise,” Fangio cautioned. “Every game takes on its own personality. How many plays you play in a row, how many plays you play in different packages, so it’ll be a fluid situation.”
Smith, the 6-foot-4, 265-pound linebacker, has totaled 38 sacks in 35 career games and could spark a San Francisco defense that ranks No. 25 in total sacks.
Smith has shown promise in his return, but he’s not quite back to his old self, yet.
“He was a little rusty obviously from the six-week lay-off,” Fangio said. “But I expect him to get it back very quickly. It’s not like he’s a guy coming back from an injury.
“He just has to overcome inactivity. Six weeks is a fairly long time, but not so long to where he can’t come back and get into the swing of things pretty quickly.”
When asked if Fangio was comfortable with Smith playing against the Panthers, the defensive coordinator didn’t take much time in answering the question.
“Absolutely,” he said.