The 49ers were fighting with one arm behind their back without defensive tackle Justin Smith, and he’s currently playing with about half an arm.
Smith said he has a tear of about 50 percent of his left triceps tendon, which will require surgery shortly after the season ends.
But he told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com he still planned to return for next season.
“I’m not going to retire after this year,” Smith said. “I would like to come back and try to get here [the Super Bowl] again. I realize my career is definitely winding down. I’m not saying I’m going to play another eight years or something like that. I want to play at a high level.”
Smith said he wanted to continue to play as long as he could play at a high level, though he does enjoy the teaching role he plays with some of the 49ers young linemen.
“I don’t want to just be a backup guy — a mentor-guy,” Smith said. “I want to help the guys as much as possible, show them all of the stuff I’ve learned from other guys.
“It’s all just passing the torch, everything you learn from the coaching staffs. I want to do that while I’m playing. These guys will be in good hands. I mean, that room is a good group of guys, good football players and a good football coach in [line coach] Jim Tomsula. Any time you’ve got a Ray McDonald in your room, you’ve got Issac [Sopoaga] in there, Ricky Jean [Francois] coming up, they are in good hands.”
They’re in better hands with Smith on the field, as his absence made Aldon Smith much less productive, and diminished the 49ers defense as a whole.