After the free agent introductory press conference, San Francisco 49ers newly signed linebacker Malcolm Smith spoke in depth with me about coming to Santa Clara. Smith, who has worn No. 53 since entering the league, has the utmost respect for his new teammate NaVorro Bowman. He said he has no problem wearing another number, of which he still has yet to choose.
The Super Bowl XLVIII MVP spent his first four seasons in Seattle and the following two in Oakland. In 2015, Smith started all 16 games and led the team with a career high 143 tackles and ranked second with 4.0 sacks. In 2016 he played in 15 games, starting 14, while leading the team with 115 tackles. He spoke to me about his new team and the familiarity he has with some of his teammates as well as his opponents.
Having a history in the NFC West, you are familiar with NaVorro Bowman. How excited are you to play along side of him?
It’s awesome. Obviously he’s got a wealth of knowledge, tons of experience, he’s played at the highest level, so I’m excited to come in and learn from him and help out however he needs help. If he needs help with communication or whatever, just excited to get to work with him and get the system going and get some wins.
You’ve worked with Robert Saleh before, can you talk about your experience with him?
I know he thinks it’s important for us to have a very sound defense and obviously that’s stopping the run and playing against the pass and getting after the ball. You’ve seen these styles of play come from different organizations and change things. Hopefully he does that here and obviously with coach Shanahan and some of the stuff he can do on offense, it will give this team a chance to be really special and we have the right people, so it can happen quickly.
What are the qualities that you bring to this team?
I feel like I bring a winning mentality, I lead by example and I’m going to play really heard. However far that takes me, I’m going to give it all up for this organization. I think that’s important, it always starts within your heart.
What are you looking forward to most?
Obviously getting in front of the fans. You’ve got a beautiful facility here. I’m so fortunate to be in a situation like this where this organization is first class. I’m looking forward to enjoying it and squeezing everything that I can out of it.
Are you excited to see Pete Carroll and the Seahawks again twice a year?
Definitely. That’s definitely a part of it too. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it but those guys are obviously great competitors, it brings out the best in you so I’m looking forward to that.
Are you excited to stay on the West Coast?
Definitely. I had some other options but for me that was another plus to staying here. I’ve always admired this franchise as a kid so I’m happy to be here.
Does returning to the NFC West make the transition to a new team easier because you’re familiar with the opponent?
Right. I mean styles change so quickly that there’s some stuff that’s changed but I’ve been watching on film and it’s pretty similar to how it was when I left, but yeah, I’m excited to get back, see some of the old players I played against, old guys I played with, help this organization get to where it wants to be.
Who else is familiar to you in this locker room?
Ray-Ray [Armstrong], we spent some time together in Oakland. I saw his growth last year and admire what he’s done. I played with Arik’s [Armstead] brother, Armand, at USC. Rod Streeter, we spent some time in Oakland together, worked out with a few guys in the offseason. I’m excited, man. There’s some really good players here. I think this system really brings out the best in people. Excited to get on the field.
What have you been doing during the offseason?
Just working out, about to have a baby, any minute now. Getting ready to be a dad, some new motivation for me.
Vance McDonald spoke last season about how becoming a father changed everything for him, are you ready?
I mean, that’s what I’ve heard so I’m interested to see how goes but I’m sure it will all be great and I’m excited.