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June 19, 2013
The 49ers indispensable man: Justin Smith to end career on his terms ... literally

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Justin Smith, the son of Missouri cattle rancher, is not a complicated guy. His two-year contract extension was simple, too. Smith said that general manager Trent Baalke approached him recently about a new deal and that he readily agreed. In fact, Smith negotiated the deal himself.

"They wanted me to be here and I wanted to be here," Smith said after a workout today. "So it makes it easy."

Smith, who had been in the final year of his deal, said veteran players rarely get to end their careers on their own terms. His deal allows him to do just that and to play for a championship-caliber team to boot.

"That's what it's all about," he said. "Having that opportunity -- I feel really lucky, really fortunate."

A year ago, Smith, 33, said he didn't want to be the type of veteran who spends his final seasons playing only a handful of snaps. He said there was language built into the contract that allows him to exit if he is no longer the prominent piece in the 49ers defensive line he has been since 2008.

"That's not going to happen," he said. "I've said that, I meant that -- I won't be the guy that's around for 10 snaps, 20 snaps. It's either, I'm going or I'm not going. If it's time to get my ass out of here, I'm going."

The 49ers drafted two defensive linemen, Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial, in April. Carradine was a high, second-round pick and ostensibly was brought in to play defensive end in the future. Still, Smith said he never took that as a signal that the 49ers wanted to replace him.

"It's the NFL. You're always bringing in people, you're always bringing in competition," Smith said. "Coach (Jim) Harbaugh tells you first day, 'There's only so many seats. You guys are fighting for them. Good luck.' That's the way the National Football League is. You know that coming in. You know that going out."

Smith's extension comes seven months after he tore his left triceps tendon in a game against the Patriots. Smith missed two regular-season contests -- the first games he missed due to injury in his career - and was not at full strength in the playoffs.

He declined to talk about how difficult it was to play with the injury last January and February but said he was close to 100 percent now. In fact, Smith said he's been lifting "over four plates" on the bench press, which is at least 405 pounds.

"I feel good about it," he said. "I feel confident about the season."

-- 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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