SANTA CLARA -– Coach Jim Tomsula has not gotten an answer from defensive lineman Justin Smith, but he’s not asking the question, either.
Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, is contemplating retirement after 14 NFL seasons. And the 49ers are giving him all the space he needs to decide for himself. Smith continues to work out on his own, but he has given no indication of whether he plans to play a 15th season.
“We all want Justin Smith to come back and play football. You know? But he’s earned the right to make that decision and take the time that he needs,” Tomsula said Friday at Levi’s Stadium. “He needs to think it through. He does.
“When he knows, he’ll tell you. It’ll be a one-word answer and it will be done. He’s here or he’s not, but that answer will be clear and concise. That’s the way he is.”
Tomsula said recently at the NFL owners meetings that the 49ers have the deepest collection of defensive linemen in the nine years Tomsula has been with the organization. His first eight seasons with the organization were in the position of defensive line coach.
Tomsula said the 49ers have planned for Smith’s departure for several seasons.
“For four years –- you see the D-linemen we’ve brought in –- we’ve been making preparations,” Tomsula said. “This isn’t a this year thing for us. We’ve been making preparations. A guy gets to 12 years in the National Football League and he’s about a 92-percent rep count playing defensive line, you better start making preparations. That started a while ago.”
The 49ers picked up veteran defensive lineman Darnell Dockett in the offseason to go along with Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and Tony Jerod-Eddie.