During Aldon Smith’s five-game absence last season, the 49ers concluded replacing him was a two-man job.
Outside linebacker Corey Lemonier is trying to prove this summer he is an every-down player. After being used exclusively as a situational pass-rusher as a rookie, Lemonier said he believes he’s ready for first and second downs, too.
“I believe so,” Lemonier said. “With the offseason training and doing all that stuff for training camp, minicamp, I’m pretty sure I can do it. I got more bulk, muscle-wise. I gained a few extra pounds of muscle.”
Lemonier is currently at 255 pounds, he said, after playing last season at 245. There figures to be additional weight on his shoulders to open the regular season with Smith expected to receive a suspension from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Smith met with Goodell on Thursday in New York. The commissioner was expected to make a ruling within a week or two of the face-to-face meeting. Smith faces discipline under the NFL’s polices on substance abuse and personal conduct.
The 49ers are bracing for Smith to receive a six-to-eight game suspension, a source said. Others foresee an outcome in which Smith is suspended for six games with the ability to return two weeks earlier with good behavior.
When Smith took a five-game leave of absence to seek treatment for substance abuse early last season, the 49ers replaced him with veteran Dan Skuta playing base downs and Lemonier entering as a pass-rusher. Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from Auburn, recorded one sack on the season.
As a rookie, Smith was relegated to the same role as a nickel pass rusher with Parys Haralson used as the outside linebacker to play on base downs. Now, Lemonier is intent on expanding his role in his second season -- much the same way Smith did after his rookie season.
Lemonier recorded four tackles while playing a team-high 70 defensive snaps in the 49ers’ exhibition opener against the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday. He also played 14 snaps on special teams.
Lemonier showed the ability to get after the quarterback with one official sack. Two plays earlier, he had a sack nullified when safety Bubba Ventrone was penalized for illegal contact.
“I’m just trying to learn my position even more,” Lemonier said. “Thursday was a great indicator of where I need go from here. It was a step in the right direction. I know I could’ve used my hands a lot better.
“We got good coaches to coach us up, and now it’s a matter of going out and showing that the techniques they teach me actually shows up on the film.”