It seems at least once a week we get an update on San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith, and that update usually is something along the lines of "he still hasn't made a decision." That's the same news this time around, when Jim Tomsula reiterated on Friday, via Paul Gutierrez of ESPN, that the 49ers have been making preparations for Smith's departure, whenever it happens, and that nothing has changed at this point.
Smith has not told Tomsula whether or not he'll return, and Tomsula said that the 49ers were always prepping for this possibility, given that Smith is a 12-year pro with a snap count of over 90 percent most seasons. Tomsula said the preparations were underway "a while ago."
That said, the 49ers do want Smith back. Everyone on the team wants Smith back. Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid are just two recent examples of players speaking out about wanting Smith back. But Tomsula also noted that the 49ers aren't rushing Smith to make a decision, saying he "needs to think it through." Tomsula said that he'd be doing the wrong thing by calling Smith and bothering him with questions every day throughout the offseason.
And I agree -- Smith is a long-time veteran of the NFL and he's more than earned the right to take his time. He doesn't need to be there for offseason workouts and he doesn't need a whole lot of time in training camp, either. I wouldn't be surprised if Smith already has a good idea of what he wants to do, and is enjoying his time off (here, "time off" is generous, as he's still working out constantly and generally doing an injustice to those of us who take pride in our laziness everywhere).
We all hope Smith will come back, but I'm honestly not so worried about the decision, at least as far as how long its taking to be made. If you want to worry about him not coming back for another season, that's fine, but don't feel worse about things based on Smith dragging out the decision. This is common, natural and frankly: expected. I know this offseason has made all of us real fragile and what not -- but we'll get a decision when the time is right.
In the mean time I suppose we should take some solace in Tomsula's words -- that the 49ers have been preparing for this. Of course, addressing the position is a bit lower on the list now thanks to the retirements and the way free agency shook out at the cornerback position, but I still like the way San Francisco's defensive line looks even without Smith next season.