The triceps injury that hampered Justin Smith in the 2012 postseason sounds like a thing of the past.
The All-Pro defensive lineman confirmed that he's "100 percent" entering Thursday's opening training camp session.
"It feels good," the 13-year veteran said of the injury that snapped his 185-game streak of conseuctive starts last season. "Ready to go."
Smith underwent surgery following Super Bowl XLVII and did not participate in the team's offseason program. Even so, the respected defensive tackle was still active this offseason. Smith rehabbed his injury vigorously and built back his strength with consistent workouts at the team's training facility.
Smith also negotiated his own two-year contract extension to remain with the 49ers through the 2015 season.
The veteran lineman, however, is only worried about 2013.
"I think we had a really good defense last year, but I think there are things we can clean up," Smith said, summing up the defensive meeting held by coordinator Vic Fangio to start camp.
Following a second consecutive NFC West division title and Super Bowl appearance, the defense was able to take a broader look at the season. Smith pointed to the defense being so focused on weekly matchups in-season, it was hard to get a strong sense of how the unit performed as a whole during 19 games.
"Coach Fangio talked to us about it, what we need to improve on, that's what we went over on the first day so that's where our focus is going forward," Smith said. "We need to get back to the basics and start over from scratch a little bit."
Fundamental work will be an emphasis in training camp, but so will position battles at two open spots on the defense - free safety and nose tackle.
The defensive line position will be in good hands, Smith believes. The 49ers lost veteran Isaac Sopoaga in free agency, but added a quality player with the signing of Glenn Dorsey to a two-year contract. Dorsey will compete with several young defensive linemen on the roster, most notably third-year pro, Ian Williams.
"One thing about playing for a long time is you realize the only thing that stays the same is everything always changes," Smith said of the nose tackle change set to take place in 2013. "We're going to miss Isaac, he was a heck of a player. But we've got Glenn here now and we've got Ian in the mix there, so we expect big things out of them."
While the 49ers brush up on ways to improve, work in new starters at two key defensive positions, they'll also work on stopping zone-read offenses which will continue to be a popular option for the team's 2013 opponents.
"It's something we focused on a bunch," Smith said. "The read-option, a lot of teams are doing it, but it's like I said, Wildcat used to be big, too.
"We'll see what happens. I know as far as our defense is preparing, we'll be ready to stop it."
Defending the zone-read scheme will be dissected much more in the coming weeks, but for now, Smith was asked several times about the NFL's new rules enforcing leg pads to be worn in games.
Smith hasn't worn them in more than a decade, but said he will do what's necessary to comply with the rules.
"I think the pendulum has swung and it's swung too far, but that's the way it goes," Smith said. "The rule's a rule. You go with it. If you want to change the rule, you get in position to change the rule… so you put the pads in."
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