NEW ORLEANS -- Defensive end Justin Smith said the worrisome tear in his left triceps tendon isn't growing with every game he plays. If anything, it's getting better, he said today.
"I can do more stuff every week," said Smith, one of six 49ers given 'podium duty' today in front of the media. "I think it heals up, obviously, as more time goes by and it's feeling better."
Smith has played two games since partially tearing his triceps tendon, which attaches the triceps muscle to the elbow, on Dec. 16. Like Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, who had a similar injury this season, Smith is wearing a brace that restricts the movement of the arm and ostensibly prevents a greater tear.
Smith said he's also gotten more accustomed to playing with the brace. The most encouraging part, he said, is the feeling that he can play with more abandon on Feb. 3. "I know how many games I have left now - four more quarters," he said.
Smith has said he will have surgery after the season no matter if the tear expands or not.
The long-time iron man has never had a serious injury since he started playing football, and he acknowledged he was alarmed by the "pop" he felt in the second half against the Patriots. He also has never spent much time in the 49ers' training room, where he has been a mainstay since the injury.
His teammates have noticed.
"I usually give guys a hard time in the training room; now I'm one of those guys," he said with a laugh. "So karma came back to get me, I guess."
Both Smith and center Jonathan Goodwin were wearing trucker's caps with "49ers" and their names on the front. Goodwin said it was like the blue-collar mechanics shirts Jim Harbaugh passed out last year.
"They have to be earned," Goodwin said. "It's a hard-working hat, a blue-collar hat. But it definitely has to be earned."
- Matt Barrows