49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

December 21, 2012
Justin Smith Watch: Defensive end missing on Friday, too

justinTime.jpg

Day 3 of 'Smith Watch' brought nothing new. The 49ers defensive end was not on the field for the start of Friday's practice, meaning that he will have missed three sessions this week. Smith (elbow) is at a stage in his career where he doesn't need to practice during the week to be able to play in the game. Whether he's on the field in Seattle at 5:20 p.m. may come down to how he feels a couple of hours before the game.

Jim Harbaugh has hinted strongly this week that Smith will play. What's perhaps more telling is that Smith tried to return to Sunday's game against the Patriots but could not. This was during the fourth quarter when the 49ers were losing both momentum and their big lead. If there was any possible way for him to have gotten back on the field and helped stem the slide, Smith would have. That signals that the injury is serious, certainly more so than Harbaugh has indicated.

If Smith cannot play, his streak of consecutive starts will end at 185. It's the longest current streak for a defensive lineman and the third-longest of any player behind Tampa Bay cornerback Ronde Barber (213) and Washington inside linebacker London Fletcher (197).

If Smith is inactive, Ricky Jean Francois would start at right defensive end. The team also could activate nose tackle Ian Williams for the first time this season, which would allow Isaac Sopoaga to play defensive end in an emergency. Will Tukuafu, who is recovering from a concussion this week, also is a possibility at defensive end and nose tackle.

- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

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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