After former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith finally announced his retirement, the national media pounced on the doom-and-gloom narrative. Smith doesn’t see it that way, however, and he said as much in an interview with 95.7 The Game on Tuesday.
Smith pointed to established players already on San Francisco’s roster who will fill the void left by his departure (h/t Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area). He mentioned NaVorro Bowman as an obvious choice while highlighting Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Aldon Smith.
Then, Smith really reinforced his opinion with this statement:
“Antoine Bethea, he’s a true leader. He came in as a free agent last year and he was one of our top leaders in the locker room. It can happen fast. And it’s not just the guy standing in the corner yelling on the bench. It’s the guy making plays who you gravitate toward.”
This team is not doomed, and Smith knows it.
There are plenty of playmakers left on San Francisco’s roster, as he mentioned. Though it is absolutely certain “Cowboy” will be missed, the 49ers have been preparing for his absence for a few years.
It would be foolish to say the transition in leadership will be seamless. Smith was not only one of the most respected men in the locker room, but he is one of the most respected men in the NFL. That kind of clout isn’t replaced overnight.
But it is equally foolish to say the 49ers will suddenly collapse under the weight of his absence.
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