Justin Smith sees sense of urgency developing

Nobody represents the win-now mentality of the San Francisco

49ers more than Justin Smith. The All-Pro defensive tackle will

tell you so himself.

The 49ers concluded their offseason workout program Thursday

with Smith stressing the urgency he sees developing as the

defending NFC West champions prepare for the 2012 season.

San Francisco has built a contender expected to challenge for

the Super Bowl. Those hopes are built around players such as Smith,

one of nine 49ers to earn Pro Bowl honors last season and a leader

on a defense that returns all 11 starters.

Entering his 12th NFL season, Smith says he and the 49ers have a

window of opportunity that doesn’t come around often. And many of

those around him in the locker room feel the same way.

”The mindset I’ve kind of been spreading to the guys is, your

team isn’t always going to be stacked, we’re not going to be able

to keep this team together forever,” Smith said.

”So let’s go out and try to hammer this thing home,” Smith

said. ”You know, we’re not building, so let’s do it this year.

It’s the goal of 31 other teams as well, so it’s going to be a

tough one to achieve. But we feel like we’ve got the right team to

do it.”

That’s quite a contrast to last year at this time, when the

49ers were coming off a string of eight consecutive seasons without

a playoff berth and starting over again with a new coaching staff

led by Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco’s fourth head coach in nine


Since then, the 49ers made a surprise run to the NFC

Championship game, then loaded up during the offseason with free

agents and draft picks to bolster the weak areas of their


San Francisco’s offense – which finished 26th in the NFL

rankings last year – has looked better during workouts this spring.

That had flamboyant tight end Vernon Davis stating last week that

the 49ers should be considered Super Bowl favorites this


Davis didn’t exactly back away from that comment in a group

setting this week.

”I don’t want to sound too cocky, but I think we have the

potential,” Davis said. ”I think we have a lot of potential and

I’m not wrong for saying that because of the talent we have. I

can’t say that we’re going to win the Super Bowl. All I can say is

that I strongly believe that we have the team to get to that point.

It makes me excited because I know what we have going


San Francisco’s sturdy defense has produced a lot of the

excitement after finishing fourth in the NFL rankings last year and

leading the league in rushing defense and takeaways while finishing

second in fewest points allowed.

That unit is anchored up front by Smith, who displayed his

strength and versatility in the team’s 3-4 scheme last season by

earning All-Pro first-team honors at defensive tackle while also

earning All-Pro second-team honors at defensive end.

Smith will carry a streak of 171 consecutive starts into this

season, which ranks third among all active NFL defenders and first

among defensive linemen. Smith, who turns 33 in September, rarely

misses a snap and shows no signs of slowing down after producing

the best season of his career in 2011.

Smith’s approach and the way he takes care of his muscular

285-pound body have become examples for others.

”It always helps when your best players are your hardest

workers,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ”He

definitely falls in that category. And it’s easy for young guys to

follow suit. Justin stays on top of it, and he’s still here and

playing at a high level. He gives us tremendous run play and pass

rush, and his intangibles from his leadership and toughness are off

the charts.”

Smith knows it won’t last forever and he has no interest in

hanging on when he no longer can handle duty as an every-down

player. But he doesn’t foresee that day coming for a while.

And after recording the first playoff victory of his career last

season, Smith is eager to go farther with San Francisco.

”I figure I have three more good years in me, four more good

years,” Smith said. ”I’m figuring, `Let’s go.’ Time is of the

essence for me. I think everybody feels the urgency and we’ve got

the guys right now. And let’s not wait.”