When Trent Baalke said last week that Justin Smith was going to be at the 49ers facility this past weekend, it seemed as if the GM mispoke. After all, why would Smith, a 14-year veteran, be on hand when the team was conducting a rookie minicamp?
Earlier this week, Smith solved the mystery: He was there to get a taste of what it was like to coach a minicamp
"Yeah, absolutely," Smith said when asked by former Bengals teammate Lorenzo Neal on 95.7 radio whether he was interested in becoming a coach.
"I've been going up there (to Santa Clara) here and there," Smith said. "Went to the rookie minicamp a little bit this past weekend. You know, I want to stay around. I feel like I'm a Niner, definitely. I want to stay as close to the team as I can and this and that, and maybe dip my toe into coaching."
The 49ers, obviously, would be receptive to that arrangement. Not only was Smith perhaps the most respected player on the squad in the last decade -- Bryant Young might give him a run for his money -- the team is making an effort to embrace players from its past.
The 49ers hired one-time nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin as an assistant coach this offseason and also courted former linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, who chose to reunite with Dan Quinn in Atlanta instead. The 49ers also would have considered Young, who had been coaching at the University of Florida. Young, however, left Florida due to family matters and is not yet ready to return to coaching.
As for Smith, he said he'd wait before re-entering the workforce.
"I don't want to jump straight into it," he said. "They sleep up there and stuff. I still can't figure out what they do. I ain't ready to find out yet, so I'll probably take a year or two and then really find out where I go from there."
* Note I: I Tweeted earlier this week that I didn't think Smith would coach for the 49ers because he is building a home in Missouri and will make central Missouri his primary homestead. That last bit is true, but obviously his radio interview indicates he is strongly considering a coaching career and, even though he spent the same amount of time in Cincinnati as San Francisco, considers himself a 49er.
* Note II: Smith has had a barrage of excellent -- and funny -- quotes since he announced his retirement. When he was playing? Yes, he was a good interview, but he hardly was ever around. I believe he spoke to reporters during weekday open locker room sessions exactly two times during the 2014 regular season. See what we -- and you -- were missing? Sigh.