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Justin Smith Feels ‘Good to Go’

Posted Jun 12, 2013

If the San Francisco 49ers had a game this week, Justin Smith would play in it.

If the San Francisco 49ers had a game this week, Justin Smith would tape up his knuckles and line up in the trenches.

“I’d be good to go,” San Francisco’s second-team All-Pro defensive tackle said when asked if he could line up for a game in mid-June.

Fortunately for the four-time Pro Bowler, Smith still has a few months to continue rehabbing the triceps injury that required offseason surgery.

Smith, 34, is close to 100 percent strength-wise and has been a constant attendee in the team’s offseason strength program.

“You’re trying to get back to where you were at your peak,” Smith told reporters on Wednesday. “(I’m) Real close, feel good about it. Still have six more weeks so I should be right on schedule.”

Smith enters his 13th season in the National Football League with even more motivation to win a Super Bowl. Knowing how close the 49ers were from winning the franchise’s sixth Vince Lombardi trophy still remains in Smith’s mind.

The veteran defensive lineman is not dwelling on the defeat. Instead, the defensive co-captain is looking to use the loss as motivation.

“You could either let that tear you down mentally as a team or build you up,” Smith said. “I think we’re taking the build-you-up approach.”

Smith is in the final year of a six-year contract signed in 2008. The veteran didn’t disclose how long he wants to continue playing. Instead, Smith stressed his focus on the 2013 season.

“You really can’t forecast out anything past the year that you’re in,” said Smith, who totaled 130 tackles and 3.0 sacks last season. “I’m thinking about 2013 and 2013 only. We have our team back for the most part, added some other pieces. So the goal is still the same, we got close, didn’t get it done and hopefully we get it done this year.”

Smith had a streak of 185 consecutive starts snapped last year due to a late-season triceps injury. Smith missed the final two games of the regular season and returned for all three of San Francisco’s postseason contests.

The 6-foot-4, 285-pound defensive lineman said he was fortunate to have played so many games without missing action. It also gave him appreciation for players who have to rehab injuries.

“It’s one of those things I was fortunate to make it as long as I did,” Smith said. “You realize it can be taken from you at any time. I hadn’t been hurt 12 years prior.”

Smith remains focused on his return to the field. He understands his place on the team is important as a leader.

“Nothing’s a given, nothing’s a guarantee,” Smith said. “They don’t like old guys for football. I’m going to enjoy this year, do the best I can for this year and hopefully it’s enough for us, for the team and we can get it done.”

Pressed again about how long he wants to continue playing, Smith reiterated his concentration solely being on the upcoming season.

“I’m one year at a time and excited to be here, excited to be on this team and see what we can do,” Smith said.

The 49ers drafted a pair of defensive linemen in the 2013 NFL Draft and Smith noted that the team has the “pantry full.” Even so, Smith is not against allowing some of his younger teammates to see more action in 2013. The veteran lineman noted the development of Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs.

“There’s definitely guys worthy of more reps,” Smith said.

If the 49ers elect to rotate in more defensive linemen this year, Smith is happy to carry out whatever is planned by the coaching staff.

In Smith’s mind, the only thing that matters is winning a Super Bowl.

“We know that much more what it takes to win,” he said. “That’s the ultimate goal and that’s what we’re about.”

Smith is all about the team.

“The whole goal is to go out winning and play the defense you can and not who’s getting the reps.”

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