I write this often, because it never stops being amazing to me: we need to seriously re-evaluate our classification of football players as “humans”.
If a normal person tore his triceps — even partially — he would then be strapped to a bed for several weeks while watching re-runs of The Price is Right. Well, I don’t mean literally strapped, unless that’s your thing.
But 49ers defensive tackle Justin Smith suffered that injury, and then he missed only two games before returning for San Francisco’s playoff opener against Green Bay. Then over his next two games while playing in what was supposedly a limited capacity he recorded nine tackles, which is right in line with his season average of 4.7 per game. And he’s done it while lugging around Robocop’s arm.
Time heals all wounds, or so they say, and that includes vital muscles and tendons. So now as we begin Super Bowl week a crucial cog in the 49ers’ front seven is saying something that isn’t enjoyable for the Ravens’ collective ears. He’s feeling pretty damn good about himself.
From the Sacramento Bee:
“I can do more stuff every week,” said Smith, one of six 49ers given ‘podium duty’ today in front of the media. “I think it heals up, obviously, as more time goes by and it’s feeling better.”
While no one is truly healthy in late January/early February of any NFL season, we’re beginning a rare Super Bowl week when there isn’t a specific muscle or bone to monitor intensely. Last year, it was Rob Gronkowski’s ankle, and two years ago it was the same body part, but it was on a different person (Maurkice Pouncey). So what the hell are we going to talk about all week now? I’m sure we’ll find something. Like, say, how many times “Harbaugh” will be said during the broadcast.
The importance of Smith to the Niners’ defense goes beyond Smith. Aldon Smith hasn’t recorded a sack since Week 15, a drought that began when Justin was first injured. But don’t tell Justin about Aldon’s struggles without Justin (seriously, one of the two best players on San Francisco’s defense needs to get a name change…this is getting ridiculous). He noted that Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers adjusted to the Niners’ pass rush and made life difficult, getting the ball out quickly and rolling away from the heart of the rush. He also talked about the surface-y nature of the sacks statistic, and as Marc Sessler of NFL.com observed, he’s right.
Pro Football Focus charted the pressure created by Aldon during the NFC Championship, when he pressured Ryan seven times. While sacks are neat, the more general goal of the pass rusher is to make life as horrible as possible for a quarterback, and seven pressures is a fine day.