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SANTA CLARA -- Defensive lineman Justin Smith is tied for the 49ers lead with five sacks in his 14th NFL season.
And if he has any thought of not playing a 15th year, 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said Thursday he might have to make an offseason house call. Fangio said he has not had a conversation with Smith about his future, but he will “absolutely” try to talk him into playing next season.
“If I have to go to Missouri and drink a beer with him, I’ll do that,” said Fangio, adding he does not drink beer.
And does rookie linebacker Chris Borland have an opinion about Smith’s future?
“I’ll be on the same flight,” Borland said.
Borland was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month after averaging nearly 15 tackles per game. When asked to explain why his tackle total is so high, Borland credited the defensive line in front of him.
[RELATED: Borland named Defensive Rookie of the Month]
“I think it’s a combination of things,” Borland said. “Being a young guy, a lot of offenses think they can go after you. And we have a tremendous defensive line play. I’ve been clean each game.
“They’re doing a great job of taking on blockers and at times taking on two blockers. It’s an easy defensive line to play behind.”
Smith’s late-season play the past two seasons was impacted by injuries. The 49ers are resting him during the week in practices, and Fangio said Smith has responded with an outstanding season.
“I actually see a better player than last year because of the health,” Fangio said. “And I’m sure he’s down a decibel or two from where he was in 2011, but not very much. It would be a shame if he did retire for all of us because he’s still playing at a very high level. Expect him to make the Pro Bowl again, and expect you guys to lead the charge five years (after) he’s done playing to get him up in Canton.”