Lions guard Sims prepared all year for 49ers

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Detroit Lions offensive guard Rob Sims has been pointing to Sunday’s matchup against San Francisco defensive tackle Justin Smith since the day the NFL schedule was released.

It is one of the main reasons why Sims, in his seventh year in the NFL, gained about 15 pounds during the off-season.

Sims couldn’t handle Smith a year ago in the 49ers’ 25-19 victory in Detroit. Smith, who is 6-foot-4, 285 pounds, completely dominated in the trenches. He made nine tackles (eight solo) and 1 ½ sacks.

“He was definitely one of the guys I had in mind when I was putting the weight on,” said Sims, who is now 6-3, 313 pounds. “You know Week 2 you’re playing Justin Smith.”

Sims, 28, admitted his mentality is a little different this week.

That’s what happens in the NFL when you’re going up against one of the best.

Smith, 32, a Pro Bowl selection the past three years, is simply relentless. He has started 171 consecutive games and made 154 more tackles than any other defensive lineman in the league since 2001.

“My wife (Natalie) knows when it’s Justin Smith week,” Sims said. “You know, get out of my way. She knows. Her father (former Miami running back Tony Nathan) played in the league and coached in the league.

“If you’ve got an important game, your temperament level is a little different when you get home. When you play great players, you’ve got to have a different mindset.”

Sims described the difference in how his wife reacts around him during a week like this. “It’s ‘How was your day, honey?’ a lot more than ‘Hey, come change this diaper,'” Sims said.

Smith’s 16 sacks since 2010 lead all defensive tackles in the NFL. His teammates and opponents rave about his work ethic.

He was the No. 4 pick overall by Cincinnati in 2001 and spent his first seven seasons with the Bengals. This is his fifth year with the 49ers.

“He just comes to play every single week, every single play,” Sims said. “That’s what makes it so great. It’s an honor to be able to play against a guy like that.

“He brings it. I have to do the same. This is what a heavyweight fight is going to look like basically, only in football.”

Sims said he has to be careful not to get too emotional for the matchup. He said he did that last year against Smith and things didn’t go too well for him.

He’s hoping to redeem himself this time.

“I wasn’t in my right frame of mind, how I am (normally),” Sims recalled. “I’m kind of cool, having a good time. That’s kind of who I am, the player I am. I think I need to revert back to that.

“Still have a lot of respect for him, just play him heads-up.”

For Lions coach Jim Schwartz and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, constant questions about their handshake controversy from a year ago is like a reoccurring nightmare these days.

Neither one wants to say anything about the incident.

When asked about his relationship with Harbaugh, Schwartz answered, “I think I’ve addressed the situation enough. We can get into Christmas cards and everything else. I’m not going to.”

Harbaugh, meanwhile, was asked whether he plans to shake Schwartz’s hand Sunday. His response: “Yes.”

Cornerback Chris Houston returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since suffering a high-ankle sprain in the third preseason game Aug. 25.

“I’m pushing as hard as I can,” Houston said of trying to return to the lineup to face the Niners. 

. . . Rookie cornerback Bill Bentley wasn’t cleared for practice after suffering a concussion in the regular-season opener. His status for Sunday is unclear.

“He’s doing OK,” Schwartz said. “He’s got a protocol that he has to go through before he’s back.”

. . . Schwartz, sticking with his typical regular-season policy when it comes to discussing injuries, wouldn’t comment on receiver Calvin Johnson sitting out of practice. Johnson was listed with a foot injury on the team’s official practice report. More than likely, it was a precautionary move to give the foot an extra day of rest. Johnson is expected to play Sunday.