'Most talented roster I've been a part of'
Justin Smith underwent surgery to repair his triceps and considers himself ready for training camp in late-July. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SANTA CLARA -- Defensive lineman Justin Smith signed a two-year extension on Wednesday with the 49ers through the 2015 season for what he figures will be the final contract of his career.
"If I was to guess, I'd say, yeah, for sure -- for sure," said Smith, 33, a 12-year veteran who has earned four consecutive NFC Pro Bowl honors.
"It's a chance to go out on your own terms, so to speak. I never dreamed that would happen. I'm pumped about that."
Smith made it clear a year ago that he did not want to be just hanging on at the end of his career. He figures to play the final three seasons of his contract -- and nothing more. But there's nothing keeping either side from pulling the plug early, he said.
One thing that Smith will not ever become, he said, is a part-time player. When that time comes, he'll willingly step aside.
"That's not going to happen," Smith said. "I won't be the guy who's around for 10 snaps, 20 snaps. It's either, I'm going or I'm not going. When it's time to get my (butt) out of here, I'm going."
Smith is arguably the best free agent pickup in 49ers' history. He originally signed a six-year, $45 million contract with the 49ers and earned every penny along the way. He began his career with the Cincinnati Bengals, and left after seven seasons to find a new home with the 49ers.
The two-year contract negotiation happened quickly, Smith said. General manager Trent Baalke approached Smith and the details were handled in short order between the two men.
"They wanted me to be here, and I wanted to be here," Smith said. "That makes it easy.
"At this point in my career, my agent, it wasn't about that (money). It was about wanting to be here. Wanting to play, having an opportunity to be on a great team, and go for the championship. That's what it's all about. Having that opportunity, I feel real lucky, real fortunate."
Smith has excelled in his five seasons with the 49ers, and he said he owes a lot of his success to his teammates on defense.
"It's the talent around you that allows you to play better," Smith said. "That's what I said when I first got here. It's the most-talented roster I've been a part of. And it's just gotten better. Trent and everybody involved, keeps adding pieces, keeping the right pieces, not letting them go. I just want to be a part of it."
Prior to the 2011 season, Smith had never experienced a playoff victory. That became a rallying cry for the defense that season. The 49ers won a playoff game before losing to the eventual Super Bowl-champion New York Giants in the NFC Championship.
Last season, the 49ers took another step, but lost to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I think it's the little things. It always is," Smith said. "Fine-tuning those and getting into camp, realizing how we're being schemed against. It's like anything. Once something's had success, a certain offense, a certain defense, that's what other teams are spending time on. And how do you attack it? I think going in and doing self-scout like we've been doing, we've recognized some of those, and some of the things we need to clean up from each individual player and how we play that's going to help us move forward.
"It's a matter of, the more tape you have out there. . . I call them 'football nerds' sitting up in a room. How do you attack this? How do you beat this scheme and the personnel, and what weaknesses they have. It's only a matter of time, that teams really focus in on us, and there's a way to counter that. The coaching staff has really done a good job of addressing that this offseason and how we're going to improve."
Smith missed the final 2 1/2 regular season games with a partially torn left triceps, which coincided with a drop of 49ers defensive production. Smith returned for the playoffs but was clearly not playing at his top level.
Smith underwent surgery to repair his triceps the week after the Super Bowl, and he now considers himself healthy and ready for the opening of training camp in late-July.
"The good news is, it's healed," he said. "It's close to 100 percent, for what I want it to be. And I feel good about it, feel confident about the season. I got another six weeks to go. I'm real happy. I've never been injured like that, so I didn't know anything with the rehab process what to expect. What coming out of that surgery would be like.
"It's all been really good."