49ers' 'Smith Boys' keeping themselves very busy

Posted June 24, 2011 @ 8:58 p.m.
Posted By Dan Arkush

Much has been made of the serious commitment and strong leadership QB Alex Smith has continued to display in workout sessions involving the 49ers' offense this offseason.

But the way we hear it, another "Smith" — Pro Bowl DRT Justin Smith — has made an equally positive impression setting the tone for the Niners' defensive players in ongoing conditioning sessions at San Jose State University.

While we hear Alex Smith was given a lot more material than he bargained for when he received new head coach Jim Harbaugh's offensive playbook back in late April, the defense did not receive new coordinator Vic Fangio's playbook, which sources say might not be all that different than previous coordinator Greg Manusky's playbook.

What Justin Smith did get his hands on, though, was a very detailed defensive workout script, which he has been very enthusiastically directing on an almost-daily basis.       

"It's unbelievable how much of a leader he has been," said one team insider who has witnessed the lion's share of workouts. "It's almost scary the way the players follow him. When he sits down, they will all sit down. If he takes his shirt off, they all take their shirts off. And he's very vocal. That's what has really surprised me, because he is usually such a low-key guy with the media."

It widely has been assumed in Niners Nation that fellow Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, whose tremendous work ethic has been well-documented, is considered the team's defensive leader. "But Justin is a much bigger leader," the source said.

Another popular perception regarding the Niners' "D" that might be a bit off base is the belief that NT Aubrayo Franklin, who many in league circles believe could be one of the hottest commodities once the free-agent market opens for business, could be packing his bags before too long.

"I think he'll stay put," the source said. "He has much more value here than with any other teams. He is said to be looking for (Steelers NT) Casey Hampton-type money, but I think his lack of size and bad start last season will be too big a detriment.

"I think the players here want him back in a big way."