A soccer ritual took place at the end of the San Francisco 49ers preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.
Two of the National Football League’s best pass-rushers showcased their mutual respect in a unique fashion – they exchanged jerseys.
At the conclusion of San Francisco’s 10-6 preseason defeat,
[PHOTOS - 49ERS VS. BRONCOS]
“It was his idea,” Smith, San Francisco’s sack leader of the past two seasons said. “We talked about it before.”
Smith walked off the field with Miller’s white No. 58 jersey hanging over his right shoulder. Miller left the field with Smith’s red No. 99 jersey.
Both players have been friends ever since they entered the NFL in 2011. The public jersey swap made a lot of sense. They’ve also pushed each other the past two seasons with friendly banter.
Smith set the NFL’s sacks record for most sacks in a player’s first two seasons with 33.5 sacks. Miller was not far behind with 30.0 sacks in his first two seasons.
Both sack artists applied pressure in the preseason opener, but it was Smith who put an end to Denver’s first drive of the game by collapsing the pocket and disrupting the timing of a third-down Peyton Manning throw intended for Wes Welker.
Jersey-swaps aside, Smith felt like it was a good showing against an offense led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“Really, I’m just trying to pick up where I left off,” said Smith, who recorded 19.5 sacks in the first 13 games of the 2012 season. “I’m just trying to pick it up this year.”
Although the 49ers were defeated in the preseason opener, the defense did not allow an offensive touchdown to the Broncos.
Only a 46-yard fourth quarter field goal from Broncos kicker Matt Prater spoiled what could have been a defensive shutout.
The defense also performed well without starters
“It just shows where our defense is at,” Smith said. “We didn’t have too many steps back. We’re just move forward and get better.”