San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith is getting ready for the 2015 season with hopes of re-establishing the dominance he showed throughout 2012. A suspension and rehab have slowed down a career that started off with incredible potential. Smith has said he is in great shape and ready to show what he can do, and a return to his top form is crucial for a 49ers defense dealing with numerous departures.
Smith recently chatted with Dan Le Batard on 790 AM. I've embedded the video above, but you can also listen HERE. He talked about working with Charles Haley, dealing with his off-field struggles, and getting ready for the 2015 season. Here is the full transcript.
On relationship with Charles Haley:
First off, thanks for having me on. Me and Charles, coming out of college helped me out, just little tips, little pass rushing techniques, and ways to operate and be a pro for a long time. And so we kept our relationship throughout my career in San Francisco. Now it's just taking a whole new level with it. He came out and has done a lot of one-on-one work with me. We've spent a lot of time together, and I just continue to grow, and continue to learn from him.
On Haley's helping navigating off-field issues:
You know, going back to some of the things he went through, so I don't make those same mistakes. And letting me know the ins and outs, and things that aren't going to be tolerated, and things that I can do to avoid situations. So just being that type of mentor. Things I can learn from. He's always constantly making sure that I'm staying focused and on the right path.
On the various 49ers retirements:
I definitely didn't see it coming, and those guys being close teammates of mine, I didn't want to see them walk away. But I think everybody had their own reason, the situation they were dealing with for walking away. I think just more importantly, I hope they're happy in life in general, and I hope they feel like they made the right decision. And something they won't look back and regret.
On which was most surprising:
The only one that I had heard was pretty sure was gonna was Justin Smith. He was going on year 15, so it's a lot of mileage on his body. But on the other ones, they were surprising, but it is what it is.
On Justin Smith strength:
Very strong. He's a big guy. I remember when I first met him during the lockout, he was walking in for a workout. I had seen pictures of him around, and video too, but he was a lot bigger in person than I thought. He played like he looked.
On how losing Justin Smith impacts his game:
A guy like Justin draws attention, so it would be foolish for me to say that he didn't make my job easier. So when he was next to me, I was definitely able to benefit from it. And we benefited off each other. The games that we had, where we could read off each other and make plays. Him teaching me the little things, the ins and outs and veteran things, knowledge of the game. Him being beside definitely helped me out.
On how good he is compared to the top tier pass rushers in the NFL:
I'm definitely in that conversation with those guys. There's been some things that have sidelined me, and prevented me from showing it. But I'm coming back healthy this year, and read to put together a full year. And I'll show everybody how I feel, and put it on display.
On off-field issues:
Mistakes. Not being where I should have been or doing what I should have been doing. And that makes football harder to deal with and harder to play. And I‘m just happy I have moved past all that, defeated all those odds, and I'm ready to go and show the world what I can do.
On lessons learned:
I think the lesson I've learned is I'm a football player, and I represent a lot more than just myself. And I have a lot of people that look up to me, and they have a lot of faith in me. It's important that I remember that everywhere I go and all the decisions that I make. And so whether that's going out for some food, or preparing for a season, I understand that I want to be the type of player, and I believe that I'm one of the best players in this league, and it's time for me to show everybody.
On worries about being one issue from throwing away career:
Yea, that's something that went into I think everything, with me wanting to come back and show everybody how good I can be, and how talented I am. I know my hard work is going to show because there's not too many mistakes that you have to make, and it doesn't matter how good you are. Rules are rules, and if you keep breaking the rules, then you won't be able to put your talents on display.
On any disappointment in himself:
I think just the time that I missed from the team. The time being away from the team and not being able to go out there with the guys who I love playing with. And watching the games from a distance, that was a moment I didn't forget, and something that definitely drove me to want to get back out there, and make sure I don't make mistakes so that I'm not sidelined from playing with them.
On vocal teammates in light of his trouble:
I think I was carrying it, but I'm close with a lot of guys. NaVorro Bowman and me have a good relationship. Me and him have had a lot of good talks, and he just let me know that he's there for me on the field and off the field, and that was something that I was excited to hear. The struggle that he went through with his knee and everything, and seeing how much I meant to him, that's something that I won't forget.
On if he any particular conversation hit him deep:
It was more so having a picture of me painted that wasn't true. I was sick of hearing it, and sick of people looking at me like I was somebody who I wasn't. And that's something that was a big transformation for me, wanting to turn around and write my story, and not let anybody write my story.
On most unfair thing he's heard or read about himself:
I'd say that I'm a thug. I'd say something along those lines. That I'm a thug and that I'm some wild kid who just didn't understand or know what to do with all the success that I had.
On wanting to get out there and wreck the field:
[Laugh] That would be nice.
Who's QB he wants to sack right now:
Alright, Tom Brady.
On offensive lineman opposite him who most amazes him:
I don't like guys trying to get their hands on me, so I try not to even have to deal with that problem. There's some guys who are pretty strong, but I try not to put myself in situations where I have to deal with that issue.
Nobody surprised him with their speed and strength?
No, there's guys who make it harder than others, but there's not a guy I like it and think I cannot get past.