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SANTA CLARA -- Outside linebacker Aldon Smith ranks tied for 10th on the NFL's all-time single-season sack record.
But he had his sights set on No. 1. With three games remaining in the regular season, Smith needed to average one sack a game to equal Michael Strahan's record from 2001.
Smith appeared on the 49ers' injury report with a shoulder injury for the first time prior the Nov. 25 game against the New Orleans Saints. Over the next three weeks, he still notched 4 1/2 sacks.
He continued to play with the labrum injury that would eventually require surgery in March and a rehab that lasted most of the offseason.
"I don't think it got too much better, not having the rest and having a few more games to go," Smith said. "I didn't get a chance to heal up. I've had this offseason and I've done a lot to get back to where I was and get better."
Smith was cleared to practice when the 49ers reported to training camp last week, and he is back with Justin Smith, whose injury impacted Aldon Smith's production as much his own. In most passing situations, the Smiths lined up together on the right side.
Aldon Smith's sack production crashed to an immediate halt when Justin Smith was injured. In the second quarter of the 49ers' Dec. 16 game at New England, Justin Smith sustained a partially torn left triceps tendon. He sat out the final 2 1/2 games of the regular season.
Justin Smith returned for the playoffs, but was clearly not as effective. Aldon Smith got some quarterback pressure in the playoffs, but he did not record any sacks over the final six games of the season. He said there were a number of factors at play.
"I think it was a couple of things," Aldon Smith said. "Them seeing the pace I was on, I don't think any team wanted me to either set the record on them or me get sacks on them because it wouldn't look good."
Smith said he faced double-teams and, at times, opposing offenses assigned three players to block him. Teams could focus more attention on Aldon Smith because they did not have
to contend with Justin Smith.
"They have a lot more attention they can focus on me," Aldon Smith said.
And, for the first time, Aldon Smith publicly admitted that his shoulder injury limited his effectiveness.
"The shoulder -- I'm not a man on excuses -- but being hurt doesn't make anything easier for you," he said.
Things have mostly appeared easy for Smith in his first two NFL seasons since the 49ers made him the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 draft. His 33.5 sacks is the most by a player in his first two seasons in NFL history.
He said breaking Strahan's NFL single-season sacks record is "definitely a goal." His focus remains on getting better.
"Getting more sacks, making more plays, seeing more," Smith said. "Things I didn't do as well last year, doing better this year."
In line photo of Justin Smith provided by the Associated Press