“I think at my point in my career, nothing’s a given. Nothing’s a guarantee. They don’t like old guys anyway for football. I’m going to enjoy this year, do the best I can this year, and hopefully it’s enough for us and the team to get it done.”
That was a quote from Smith during last week's minicamp when he was asked about his uncertain future with the 49ers. The veteran defensive lineman was poised to enter the free agent pool following the 2013 season before agreeing to a two-year contract extension Wednesday, the team announced on Twitter.
“They wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here. That made it real easy,” Smith said when he was made available to the media Wednesday.
"This is the most talented roster that I’ve been apart of and it’s just gotten better. (General manager Trent Baalke) and everybody involved keeps adding the right pieces, keeping the right pieces not letting them go and I just want to be apart of it. Being able to do that going into year 13 and 14, I feel real lucky.”
Smith has been one of the 49ers' most important players since coming over as a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals prior to the 2008 season. He originally inked a six-year, $45 million deal with the club that was set to expire. He's made 536 tackles, 32 sacks and seven forced fumbles since joining San Francisco's defense. The Bengals drafted Smith with the No.4-overall pick in 2001.
When Smith suffered a torn triceps injury in Week 15's win in New England, it ended his 185-game consecutive-games streak and the defense felt the hit without its two-time All-Pro selection at full strength.
Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks through 2012's first 13 games while effectively working the two-man game with Justin. After the triceps injury, Aldon Smith didn't register a single sack in the regular season or the playoffs, including the 34-31 loss to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. Aldon Smith required surgery to repair a torn labrum following the season after playing with the injury for the final two months of the year.
“Justin’s All-Pro contributions on the field, as well as his leadership on and off the field, are integral to our success as a team. Justin consistently sets a standard of excellence, serving as an example for everyone within our organization. This contract allows Justin to finish his career as a 49er!” Trent Baalke said in a statement released by the team.
In 2011, the Associated Press named Smith a first-team All-Pro at defensive tackle and second-team selection at defensive end. It marked the first time a player had been selected to the first and second teams on the same side of the ball. Last year, he was named to the second team at both positions.
Smith said he's close to full strength following offseason surgery to repair his torn triceps. He didn't participate in team drills during the OTAs and minicamp as he rehabbed in preparation for training camp.
“You realize it can be taken from you at any time. I hadn’t been hurt for 12 years prior…you realize what that side of it’s like," Smith said. "It’s tough, but I’m one year at a time. I’m excited to be here, I’m excited to be on this team and see what we can do.”
The 49ers made adding to the defensive front a priority this offseason, landing free-agent tackle Glenn Dorsey and drafting lineman Cornellius Carradine, outside linebacker Corey Lemonier and tackle Quinton Dial. San Francisco lost free agents Isaac Sopoaga and Rickey Jean-Francois to the Eagles and Colts, respectively.
"It’s the NFL. You’re always bringing in people, you’re always bringing in competition," Smith said. "Coach Harbaugh told us the first day, ‘there are only so many seats. People are fighting for them. Good luck.’ That’s the way the National Football League is, you know that coming in and you know that coming out. You’re never surprised when someone gets picked or drafted or a free agent comes in. That’s just part of it.”
Smith is a two-time recipient of the 49ers' Len Eschmont Award (2011 and 2012) and Bill Walsh Award (2008 and 2011), given to the team's most valuable player voted on by the players and coaches, respectively.
Smith acknowledged there's a great chance this is the last contract he will ever sign and would rather retire than become a part-time player.
“I won’t be a guy that’s around for 10 snaps or 20 snaps. Either I’m going or I’m not going. If it’s time to get my (expletive) out of here, I’m going,” he said.
Terms of the contract extension have not been disclosed.