49ers Mailbag II: Justin Smith as good as last season

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49ers Mailbag II: Justin Smith as good as last season

Q: Justin Smith's stats are down from a year ago, but do you believe he is being more effective in the defense than last year? (John E. Commons)
I'm not sure Justin Smith can possibly be better than he was a year ago. But there has not been any discernible decline in his play, either.Earlier this week, Aldon Smith was mentioned here as the 49ers' defensive MVP. The more I think about it, the more I believe a strong case can be made for Justin Smith. He might not have any sacks through eight games, but everything the 49ers' defense is able to accomplish is a direct result of his selfless approach.Justin Smith leads the 49ers with 45 quarterback pressures and 30 quarterback hits. And he typically has to fight through double-teams, which benefits Aldon Smith, as well as Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman.Justin Smith continues to be a stalwart in the run game. He is on pace to record more tackles than a year ago. He has 68 tackles, according to the 49ers' coaches film review. Last year, he had 105 tackles. He has 5.5 tackles for loss -- exactly half the number he recorded a year ago.So I wouldn't say that Justin Smith is better, but he is every bit as good.Q: Did you give any thought to Chris Culliver being the MVP of the defense in the first half of the season? (Randy Ball)
Chris Culliver had an outstanding first half of the season as the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback. He has made the biggest single improvement on the team from a year ago.Culliver recorded two interceptions and broke up a team-leading 10 passes in the first eight games. Culliver is a big reason the 49ers' pass defense has been so good this season.But I did not give too much thought to Culliver as the team's defensive MVP because he's not an every-down player. But how long will it be before the 49ers move him into that role?Looking at the 49ers' salaries for next season, starter Carlos Rogers is scheduled make 5.85 million in base salary. At this point, I expect Rogers will be back. But if Culliver continues to play at a high level, the 49ers must at least consider moving him into a starting role in 2013.

Bills sign two former 49ers

Bills sign two former 49ers

The Buffalo Bills have signed two 49ers free agents within the past two days.

After signing wide receiver Rod Streater on Wednesday, the Bills announced the signing of linebacker Gerald Hodges on Thursday.

The 49ers acquired Hodges in a 2015 trade with the Minnesota Vikings for center Nick Easton and a sixth-round draft pick. Hodges started 12 games last season and ranked second on the team with 92 tackles.

Hodges left the 49ers shorthanded for a late-season game against the Atlanta Falcons when he violated team rules. Then-coach Chip Kelly did not disclose the nature of Hodges infraction. Hodges offered no explanation or apology.

The 49ers entered the game against the high-powered Falcons with just two healthy inside linebackers due to Hodges’ deactivation. Starter Nick Bellore sustained an elbow injury on the third play of the game, and the 49ers were forced to use safeties Antoine Bethea and Vinnie Sunseri, and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks at various points of the game.

The 49ers showed no interest in re-signing Hodges as a free agent.

Streater, a five-year NFL veteran, saw action in all 16 games last season after being acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs in September. He caught 18 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns.

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

Harbaugh takes blame for 'premature celebration' during 2011 incident

It was Jim Harbaugh's first season as head coach of the 49ers.

The 4-1 49ers were in Detroit and scored 10 points in the final 5:29 to beat the Lions 25-19.

An excited Harbaugh got a little too agressive during his postgame handshake with Lions coach Jim Schwartz. The two had words for each other and had to be separated.

Six years later, Harbaugh took the blame for what happened and said that he and Schwartz have patched things up.

"I went in too hard on that, too aggressive on the handshake. I've since changed that. Not doing that anymore. Can't blame him. I went in too hard. And you respect him for taking exception. We've talked, and we're good. We're back to friends. There is a protocol in a postgame handshake. I've been there as the winner. I've been there as loser. You just, 'Hey, nice game,' then go celebrate. Premature celebration there, in the wrong," Harbaugh said Tuesday on Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take podcast.

Harbaugh sounds like he's learned his lesson from that incident with Schwartz.

"The postgame handshake isn't the place for anything. If you're bitter, than change the I to an E. Don't get bitter, get better. Nothing's really changing at the postgame handshake. Just professionally shake hands and go on your way," Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh moved on from the 49ers to coach the Michigan Wolverines. Schwartz coached the Lions through the 2013 season and currently serves as the defensive coordinator for the Eagles.