Back in December, it seemed that Justin Smith was headed toward retirement.
At age 35, the perennial Pro Bowl defensive lineman of the 49ers talked about stepping away from the game, and Alex Flanagan of the NFL Network even reported his retirement as a sure thing.
“I’m hearing this will be 49ers DT Justin Smith’s last game,” she reported on Dec. 28. “Retirement looming after 14 years in the NFL.”
But now that Smith has had more time to ponder his options and the calendar has flipped from December to March, there are indications Smith will be coming back for another season.
Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, is reporting that Smith will meet Wednesday with new head coach Jim Tomsula about his future. Tomsula, the former defensive line coach for the team, has a strong relationship with Smith; the two have worked closely together since Smith came over from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008.
According to Barrows, Smith has been training regularly at the 49ers practice facility and elsewhere, and on Monday was doing a bleacher workout at San Jose State with former 49ers teammates Parys Haralson and Ray McDonald.
Wrote Barrows: “Smith has not been acting like a retiree. He appears to be in excellent shape, although (GM Trent) Baalke warned not to read too much into his offseason habits.”
Baalke told Barrows that Smith is building a new home in Missouri, and that the home will include a weight room.
“That’s just the way he’s wired,” Baalke told Barrows. “That’s part of his life. That’s why he’s been successful as he’s been throughout his career.”
But who runs bleacher workouts just to stay in shape for retirement? Those are intensive workouts tailor-made for football.
Tomsula told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch last month that he’s stayed in touch with Smith this offseason but would “not try to talk him out of anything.”
Added Tomsula: “He has earned the right to make his decision on his terms.”
If that’s the case, it appears Smith – given some time off after a disappointing season – may now be eager to come back for one more season.