Aldon Smith accepts the violence of football. He embraces it.
The San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker and former Missouri standout wouldn’t be in New Orleans this week to play in Super Bowl XLVII otherwise.
So despite the many cautionary tales emerging these days regarding the long-term health repercussions of football — repercussions about which President Obama recently spoke — Smith didn’t question his profession Monday during a media session.
“It’s not like we signed up and thought we were going to play tennis,” Smith said.
“It’s a physical game. Everybody plays hard. Guys get hit sometimes and that’s what we all know coming into the game. We all signed up for it. We came out. We’re playing football.”
Smith, voted the 49ers MVP by his teammates, also spoke about his relationship with defensive tackle Justin Smith, another former Missouri player. It goes beyond sharing last names and an alma mater. Justin Smith mentored Aldon Smith his rookie year, and they worked out together during the 2011 lockout.
They also share a “rhythm” on the field. Aldon Smith tallied 19.5 sacks this season — all in the first 13 weeks of the season. Justin Smith missed the rest of the regular season after that with a triceps injury, and Aldon Smith’s production dropped.
So while Justin Smith’s three sacks don’t jump from the stats page, no one doubts his importance.
“It’s attention. He’s a guy that draws a lot of attention,” Aldon Smith said. “He’s a great player and a Pro Bowl guy. With that, if they’re doubling him, they might single me up. Regardless, we’re all getting a lot of attention and one of us will be free or singled up and we’ll take advantage of it.”
Justin Smith returned for the NFC Championship in Atlanta, and though Aldon Smith didn’t get a sack, he disrupted the Falcons’ offense with his constant pressure. Justin Smith expects the same against the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl this Sunday.
“They know when you’re playing a guy like that, he’s going to get more attention, more chipping, he’s going to bring the line over there a little more,” he said. “What the quarterback knows too is that you have to get rid of the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t have a clock that goes off when you’re practicing against a guy like Aldon. The ball has to come out in three seconds.
Justin Smith has admired his younger teammates’ work ethic since the 49ers drafted him, but even he’s been taken aback by Aldon Smith’s quick progression.
“He’s setting records left and right, so I think anytime anybody does that it’s surprising,” he said. “Just his transition into the NFL and how easy he’s made it look, that’s what the great ones do – they make it look easy.”
Justin Smith says his triceps muscle is improving every week but still limits his range of motion when trying to shed blocks (as well as in the weight room). It’s the first time in the four-time Pro Bowler’s 11-year career that he’s dealt with missing a significant amount of time.
“I’ve never really been injured before,” he said. “I usually give guys a hard time in the training room, and now I’m one of those guys. So, a little karma came back to get me I guess.”