Justin Smith plans to sit down with 49ers officials some time this month and decide whether he will return for a 15th -- and likely final -- season in the NFL. "You'll know in about three weeks or so," the veteran defensive lineman said.
Smith, 35, would not say which way he was leaning. He said he wanted to give himself time to recover from the 2014 season and to think about his decision before giving the team an answer. He said he and team officials, coach Jim Tomsula and general manager Trent Baalke, agreed to talk after the draft.
Smith is under contract for one more season but has not been taking part in the 49ers' offseason program. Still, he's been working out regularly on his own and looks like he's in excellent shape. He said his routine did not hint at his decision; even if he was no longer playing football, he said, he'd work out regularly for health reasons.
He also said the 49ers' decision to draft a defensive lineman, Arik Armstead, in the first round did not signal his retirement. He said that if he did come back, it probably would be for just one season anyway.
Baalke had a similar comment after selecting Armstead on Thursday.
“We gave Justin liberty to make his own decision on his time frame,” Baalke said. “We went into the draft not thinking about what decision Justin’s going to make or not going to make. We just went in to find the best football player, the best system fit that we could.”
Smith has been the 49ers' top defensive lineman since he arrived in free agency in 2008, and the pairing of him and pass rusher Aldon Smith has been one of the most formidable combinations in the league. However, Justin Smith, who played a full decade at the beginning of his career without missing a start, has been banged up in recent seasons. That includes a triceps injury in 2012 and a shoulder issue in 2013.
Former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said in December that he hoped Smith would take some time before making a decision on his future.
"I think the one thing that defines him is that he’s just a true warrior in the truest football sense of the word," Fangio said Dec. 23. "The guy is as tough as anybody I’ve ever been around, accountable as anybody I’ve been around. He has played through injuries that most people wouldn’t have played through. He doesn’t talk about them. He played a whole season last year with half an arm. There are a lot of guys that wouldn’t have even gone out there. But the guy loves football, loves playing, loves competing. He’s definitely in my personal top-3 or-5 hall-of-fame [players] that I’ve been around.”
Asked today if his body feels good, Smith said it did. "But everybody feels good at this time of the year," he said.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at sacbee.com/sf49ers.