The San Francisco 49ers loss on Sunday likely meant several players will not see the playoffs again with the team. The 49ers have numerous free agents, and some notable players will not be returning. The most notable is probably Frank Gore. While he is on the back end of his career, he is the franchise's all-time leading rusher and it will be the end of an era if he departs after this season.
Alex Boone spoke with the media in the post-game locker room, and he had a chance to comment on the future of some players. He was asked about what the team can do these final two games, as far as making a statement before the end of the season. Boone had this to say:
Make a statement. Come out and just forget everything, just play football. You're playing with some of the greatest guys ever. Frank Gore, Justin Smith. These are guys that probably aren't gonna be here next year. You fight for them. You're proud to go out there with them, and fight as hard as they do, and really you're playing for pride now. It's a tough situation. I've been in this situation before, but this team hasn't seen it in a while. It's one of those things where you just have to be a man about it. Go out and do your job, be a professional.
There has been some chatter about Justin Smith's future, but as someone pointed out in the comments earlier today, it is entirely possible he has said something that might make it possible he is not coming back for the final year of his contract. Boone did talk about avoiding the newspapers and not listening to the media these last two weeks, so it is entirely possible he has only heard what the media has talked about.
Smith has said he will consider his future this offseason, but it did not strike me as a "I'm definitely leaning toward retiring." Two years ago, Smith was asked if he ever thought about his own future:
Sure. I figure I've got three more good years in me, four more good years. I don't want to be the guy who becomes the third down guy who plays 17 (snaps). I don't want to do that.
This season saw Smith getting Wednesday off each week, and that expanded to also include Thursday as he suffered a back injury in Week 12. It is possible he will recover fine in the offseason, and be ready to go when 2015 gets here. Of course, it is also possible he might see the injuries piling up, and decide it might be time to call it a career. The 49ers have worked in Tony Jerod-Eddie and Tank Carradine more and more as the season moved on. I'd love to see another year of Justin Smith, but we'll have to wait and see what the offseason brings.