Justin Smith Retires After 14 NFL Seasons

Justin Smith Retires After 14 NFL Seasons

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  • Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Justin Smith retired from the NFL on /4/18.
  • He played in 14 seasons.

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith announced his retirement on /4/18 after 14 NFL seasons.

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith is retiring after 14 NFL seasons. 

The 49ers announced Smith’s retirement via a press release on their official website on /4/18.

The 35-year-old Smith said his deteriorating physical skills were the main reason why he decided to retire, per NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal. 

“When you get on the bald tires, you’re on the bald tires…it was just time for me to move on,” Smith told the media on Monday (via NFL.com). 

More specifically, The San Jose Mercury News’ Cam Inman reported on /4/18 Smith’s ailing left shoulder, which he injured in a collision with guard Mike Iupati during the 49ers’ 2013 training camp, was the one nagging him. 

Smith elaborated on this in a conversation with Inman:

“Where I play on the right side, all my contact comes on my left shoulder and left side. And it doesn’t respond the way I want it to respond anymore.

“If you don’t have the tools, you can’t do the job. So it’s just time to go.

“It’ a young man’s game, and you’ve got to be full of p— and vinegar when you step on the field. As you get older, it’s harder to get that same intensity going, week in and week out. It’s just time to go.” 

The San Jose Mercury News update says Smith is the third 49ers player to retire during the offseason, following linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland. 

Several other former 49ers players departed this season for free agency, per Inman: running back Frank Gore (Indianapolis Colts), wide receiver Michael Crabtree (Oakland Raiders), Iupati (Arizona Cardinals), Dan Skuta (Jacksonville Jaguars), cornerback Chris Culliver (Washington Redskins) and cornerback Perrish Cox (Tennessee Titans). 

Inman stresses the 49ers had been preparing for the moment when Smith would eventually retire. The top two candidates to replace him at right defensive tackle are first-round draft pick Arik Armstead or Darnell Dockett.

Other potential replacements include Glenn Dorsey, Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Tank Carradine, per The San Jose Mercury News

49ers CEO Jed York said Smith will forever be remembered as one of the team’s greatest players, per the team’s official website:

“Tough. Physical. Durable. Hard-working. Dedicated. Selfless. Justin embodies each of those qualities and brought even more with him to work each and every day. Whether it was chasing down a wide receiver and forcing a fumble to seal a win, or driving a tackle back into the quarterback’s chest, he gave everything he had every play.

“Justin has earned the respect of the entire NFL community and he will always be remembered as one of the 49ers’ all-time greats.”

For his part, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told the team’s official website Smith “is the consummate professional”:

“Justin is the consummate professional whose impact on this organization can never be measured by statistics alone. His durability, competitiveness, work ethic, strength and rare stamina helped set him apart over his 14-year career. 

“Cowboy will go down as one of the best to ever wear a 49er uniform and his candidness, work ethic and pure passion for the game will be missed. We wish the very best for him and his family!” 

Smith was the fourth overall selection of the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2001 NFL draft. He spent seven seasons with the Bengals before the 49ers signed him as a free agent in 2008. A year later, he would be named to the first of his five Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the team, per 49ers.com.

He suited up in 185 consecutive games before he tore his triceps tendon in 2012. He sat out the final two games of the regular season before returning for the playoffs and Super Bowl XLVII against the eventual champions Baltimore Ravens, per Inman. 

After that season, Smith struck a three-year, $17.1 million extension with the 49ers which ran through 2015, per CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maioco. 

He would have earned $2.65 million this season with a $6.4 million salary-cap hit, per The San Jose Mercury News

Smith ends his NFL career with 880 tackles, 87.0 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and three interceptions in 221 career regular-season games for the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, per ESPN stats

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