The 49ers’ on-field, pre-game pep talk is likely a thing of the past with Patrick Willis’ retirement.
Willis tried to take on a verbal leadership role during his 49ers career. But the 49ers this offseason lost two of their other best leaders. Running back Frank Gore continues his career with the Indianapolis Colts, while defensive lineman Justin Smith announced his retirement on Monday.
But Smith said he does not expect the 49ers to experience a huge void in leadership on the defensive side.
“Just right off the bat, you got NaVorro (Bowman) coming back,” Smith said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “Glenn Dorsey is really coming along and has developed since he got here from Kansas City.
“I think a guy that’s not talked about a lot because he got injured is Ian Williams. I think he’s one of the best nose guards in the league, if his leg’s healthy. And you got Aldon Smith out there, coming back, contract year. I look forward to kicking back and watching him play.
“Antoine Bethea, he’s a true leader. He came in as a free agent last year and he was one of our top leaders in the locker room. It can happen fast. And it’s not just the guy standing in the corner yelling on the bench. It’s the guy making plays who you gravitate toward.”