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Malcolm Smith is finally past the most difficult time in his career

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Smith discusses the frustrations and feelings of guilt in not being able to contribute on the field

The long awaited return of Malcolm Smith has been spotty during the 49ers preseason. He played a few snaps in the first game facing the Cowboys and two series (10 snaps) facing the Colts. He will likely sit out of the preseason finale facing the Chargers. The coaching staff wanted to ease him back into playing again, but Smith would of course prefer to play more.

Shanahan explains the snap count, easing Smith back in and giving the younger guys more of an opportunity to get playing experience.

A little of both. We wanted him to start the game out because we expect him to be out there Week 1. But, he was also coming his first week back after a hamstring. We didn’t want to put him out there too much. We wanted [LB] Fred [Warner] to play a little bit longer with the ones and we wanted to get [LB] Reuben [Foster] in there since his days are numbered until he’s gone for his suspension.

Smith has described his time being unable to play as one of the most challenging times of his NFL career. He has had feelings of guilt, of letting people down, wishing he could do more, while wondering what he could have done differently. Focusing on what is going to help him move forward, has been very important.

After the game, Smith confirmed the hamstring was fine and just being out on the field was a positive for him. While he wants to get more reps facing the Chargers he realizes that it’s better to be smart about his recovery and not too aggressive. Being ready mentally is just as important as being ready physically.

As far as what he sees from his defensive counterparts, Smith reports rookie Fred Warner is doing well, learning a lot and taking advantage of his opportunity to play, while just needing to stay calm and have fun. Smith also reports that reuniting with his former teammate Richard Sherman has been a huge positive. He says having Sherman’s veteran presence on the field prevents mistakes from happening before the ball is even snapped. Smith was also impressed with the pocket push from the defensive line that finally got some playing time together.

Hopefully all of these elements come together for the defense in Week 1 when they face the Vikings.