SANTA CLARA -- Coach Jim Harbaugh did not tip his hand Wednesday whether 49ers All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith will play Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Then, again, he did not leave much doubt, either.
When asked if the decision to play Smith on Sunday will be solely based on football, Harbaugh answered, “Yes.”
Smith, voted as the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as last year’s team MVP, leads the 49ers with 4.5 sacks this season despite appearing in just three games. There seems to be little doubt the 49ers are a better team with Smith on the field.
“This is a thing that is being taken day by day,” Harbaugh said.
Smith was activated to the 49ers’ roster last Thursday. The NFL granted the 49ers a one-week roster exemption. That period expired Wednesday. Because the 49ers never took advantage of the exemption, they did not have to create a spot Wednesday for Smith on the 53-man roster.
Smith took part in practices Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, he suited up for his first full padded practice since taking a leave of absence on Sept. 23 to enter into a treatment program for substance abuse.