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Justin Smith, the 49ers’ top defensive lineman, said he was hampered by a shoulder injury last year.

Justin Smith says he played with shoulder injury in 2013

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 23, 2014 - 4:43 pm

If Justin Smith wasn’t his usual havoc-causing self last season, there was a good reason.

The 49ers defensive end today revealed he suffered a shoulder injury during last year’s training camp and played through the season with the injury. Smith had surgery this offseason, which is why he did not take part in any of the team’s spring drills.

“You use your arms in football quite a bit for (playing) inside,” Smith said when asked if he was hampered in 2013. “It was what it was.”

Last year at this time, Smith also was coming back from a torn triceps. It was the first major injury of his career and it cost him two and half games at the end of the 2012 season. He returned for the playoffs that year but was not nearly as effective as he had been during the team’s 2011 playoff march when he took over games against New Orleans and the Giants.

Pro Football Focus, which analyzes every snap of every starter in the league, gave Smith a sterling +50.5 grade following his standout 2011 season. Last year the grade dropped to +8.1, including a -9.3 mark on running plays.

Before the 2012 season, Smith talked about how limited a window of opportunity can be for an NFL player, and he said he figured he had “three or four” good years left in him. This will be the third year after that statement, but the 14-year veteran said he wasn’t thinking about anything other than the season ahead.

“I’m playing this year, and that’s all I’m focused on,” he said. “ I feel healthy compared to last year. I feel a lot better compared to last year. This is it. This is the (season) I’m thinking about, this is the one the team is thinking about. I’m not really concerned about next year.”

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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