San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith announced his retirement on Monday, and he now gets to settle into the retired life. Smith made an appearance on 95.7 The Game Tuesday morning, and the interview was pretty fantastic. I'd recommend listening to it HERE, but I have also transcribed the whole thing below. We'll break out some parts in the coming days, but for now, here it all is.
The most notable comment was that the 49ers knew his retirement plans before the 2015 NFL Draft. He said he would not leave the team out to dry. This is not surprising, but interesting confirmation nonetheless.
He was also highly complimentary of Jim Tomsula, calling him a cerebral guy who knows all aspects of the game. He poked fun at the media's handling of Tomsula's first press conference, and we even got a Joan from Payroll comment at the end!
On time with Lorenzo Neal (one of the co-hosts) in Cincinnati:
I tell you what, we didn't win a lot of games, but we had a lot of fun. I tell you what, I learned a lot from those guys, how they worked. It's easy to be a front runner, man, but I learned a lot from those guys, and how to be a pro, and how to work your ass off when you're losing. And that's what you learn.
On positive comments from former teammates:
I've very seldom heard a guy retire and anybody say anything bad about him. That's probably the first thing. It's kind of like a funeral. They always talk nice about the guy. It means a lot. Playing with all those guys and you're out on the football field, it's something special. Just you 11 guys in that huddle are experiencing and I've got a ton of respect for everybody I've ever played with, especially guys I just finished up with out here.
On when he started feeling himself lose a step:
Well yea, I remember up there at Raiders training camp I was up there talking to you. I think you were going on year 16 or 17, and I'm just like damn, how are you still doing this? As a D-lineman now, I was getting that from these young guys, and I felt pretty good up till about two years ago. I heard other guys talk about it, just the snowball effect. You start thinking you're not going to get injured, and next thing you know, it happens and it was just one thing after another. You know, my neck and the middle of my back the end of last season. So it's just time. I knew stepping out on the field that this was probably about it, just judging by how my body felt and the level I wanted to play at and the level we got accustomed to playing at as a defensive unit. If it's not going to be up to that standard, it's a disservice to the team, the fans and everybody else involved to just be out there collecting a check.
On how he will celebrate the end (steak, beer, etc):
Well, all of the above I guess! The main thing is just it's been kind of soaking in the last three or four months. I thought it'd be, you know, early in your career you think about the day you're going to retire and this and that, or when you're forced out or however your career ends. It's always different than what you expect. And this just has been kind of a slow on out of here experience, and that's what it's been like.
On if Harbaugh departure factored in:
Well I mean everything everything factors in. That wasn't it. For me, it was strictly how my body felt. You know, with everything that went down, I talked to Trent and Jimmy T right after the season. They knew where my head was then. It kind of got played out, I didn't look in the media very much. But kind of got played out like I was on the fence the whole time, this and that, but they knew where I stood, they knew how my body felt. You know, shit, they got the x-rays, so it's just going from there. They knew before the draft where I was going to go, and I wasn't gong to leave the team in limbo like that, so they knew.
On who fills leadership losses:
Well, I mean just right off the bat, you've got NaVorro coming back. Glenn Dorsey's really come along, developed since he got here from Kansas City. I think a guy that's not talked about much because he's got injuries is Ian Williams. I think he's one of the best nose guards in the league if his leg's healthy. And you know, you've got Aldon. Aldon Smith coming back, contract year, this and that. I look forward just to kicking back and watching him play. Antoine Bethea, he's a true leader. He's probably, he came in as a free agent last year and he was one of our top leaders in the locker room.
It can happen fast, and it's not just the guy standing in corner yelling on his bench. It's the guy who's out there making plays, that's who you gravitate towards.
On considering coaching:
Oh yea, absolutely. I been going up there a little bit, here and there. Went to the rookie minicamp a little bit this past weekend. Yea, I want to stay around it. I feel like I'm a Niner, definitely. So I want to stay as close to the team as I can, and this and that, maybe dip my toe into coaching. I don't want to jump straight into it. You know, they sleep up there and stuff. I still can't figure out what they do. I ain't ready to find out yet. But I'll probably take a year or two and figure out where I'll go from there.
On the kind of coach Tomsula is:
Well, you know, I was kind of sitting back watching everything, and I know the media had fun with him in his first press conference. They kind of lit into him. I felt bad for Jimmy T because they tried to make him look like a meathead D-line coach. That's not the case. This guy is a cerebral guy. He knows the game inside and out, offensively and defensively. Half the time we're talking defense in our defensive meeting rooms, we're talking about how the offense is trying to attack us. So he's got good knowledge of what the offense is trying to do; special teams, all of it. They got a great coach and he's going to do fine and it's going to be fun to watch it.
On playing for Jim Harbaugh:
Pretty much, everybody in the locker room got along with Harbaugh. He was a good guy. He was quirky, this and that, but everybody loved him. And we loved what we were doing. We were winning, how could you not have fun with that? But for whatever reason, it didn't work out. As a player, you don't try to get involved in that. Whatever's going on, whatever else, it's not our problem. We're just trying to win.
We thought we had a legitimate shot going into the season of a Super Bowl. Didn't turn out that way, but great coach, great coaching staff. Vic Fangio, and those guys, I think that was one of the best defensive staffs with Jim Tomsula a part of it, defensive staffs assembled, that I've been around. And I've been around a lot of great defensive football coaches. It's just unfortunate from that end, but that's football. Players move on, coaches move on. You got to roll with the punches. And I think they'll be fine. Like I said, I got all the faith in the world in Jimmy T.
On disappointment with the Harbaugh stuff:
Well you know, some guys are going to talk. Especially younger guys, they get distracted easy, kind of like a dog watching a ball go through the middle of the hallway or something. But you know, the guys that were there and were serious about it, that's part of pro football. The media starts a lot of this stuff, it gets carried over. You start a question with, "What's the problem in the locker room?", and all of a sudden the guy's just talking and all of a sudden, he validates your point when there's no point.
We really didn't pay attention to it at all, and it just wasn't a good season for us. We didn't play as well as we needed to play, period.
On games he thinks he'll remember best:
Oh absolutely. My real taste of playing playoff football was 2011 against the Saints. And against the Giants, where we came up a little short there to go to the Super Bowl ... One of the first plays of (Saints) game that sticks out in my mind is Whitner just laying that guy out on the goal line. I was probably four feet from that, and I thought, "Well, here come the flags", and they didn't and I thought, "OK, they're gonna let us play." It was just awesome. That whole game. Against the Giants, that was a great game, we just came up short.
You kinda remember coming up a little short more than you do winning, so, that's what really sticks out in my mind. That first year, and getting us going. Next year we make it to the Super Bowl and we came up short again. And then we made it to another NFC Championship Game, but came up short again. That's kind of been the motto there and that's what stings. And that's what I'll remember unfortunately.
On when he realized he could be a good player:
Well you know, Lorenzo, you played forever, you're going along and you get in a good environment. I would say just off the top of my head for you, it would probably be the Chargers. And to get in that locker room and whatever it is, it just starts clicking. And the wins start piling up, and the confidence builds. You can almost taste it in the locker room, and it's a unique feeling. I only experienced it for about 3 1/2 years, and it was awesome. You just know you're flying east coast and you're going to kick somebody's ass.
You know, I've been on those flights before and you think, we'll see what happens. You know, it's the NFL and you pull out the lines, "we'll see what happens." But for about 3 1/2 years there, we were all hopping on the plane and like, "It's go time." And that was just awesome.
How much will he miss Joan from Payroll:
I think I've actually talked with Joan from Payroll one time. You guys were all over Jimmy T for that first press conference. Just dusting him up in the PR department down there. You guys will get to see it this year, he's really a pretty smooth, slick talker from Pittsburgh, so I'm sure he'll open up for you all.