The hits could just keep on coming for the San Francisco 49ers in the coming days and weeks. NFL Network's Alex Flanagan is reporting Justin Smith is expected to retire after this season.
I'm hearing this will be 49ers DT Justin Smith's last game. Retirement looming after 14 yrs. in the NFL— Alex Flanagan (@Alex_Flanagan) December 28, 2014
This is certainly not a guarantee that Smith will retire, but it is the first national report on the subject. Flanagan is on hand for the 49ers-Cardinals game, so this could very well just be word from players or coaches. Smith is 35, and will turn 36 early in the 2015 season. He was a Pro Bowl alternate this season after being named to the Pro Bowl every season from 2009-2013.
More importantly, Smith earned an All Pro nod in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He was thoroughly dominant in 2011, and his 2012 and 2013 All Pro nods came amidst serious injuries. He effectively played in the 2013 playoffs with one arm, and then dealt with shoulder issues in 2013. He has been a bit under the radar this season, but he is still a force on the line.
Smith has said he does not want to stick around if he is becoming just a part-time player. He is still a starter, but the 49ers have been working in reserves a bit more frequently with each passing year. Smith may have decided, or will officially soon decide that he does not want to put up with the nagging injuries. If Vic Fangio and/or Jim Tomsula stick around after Jim Harbaugh's departure, I have to think they'll put on the hard sell to try and get him back for one more year.
If this is in fact the end, I'll leave you with this fantastic GIF