Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports



The new San Francisco 49ers regime has a great deal of respect for the rich history of the franchise. That will be evident to fans entering Levi's Stadium this season. The home of the 49ers is being plastered with tributes to past players and accomplishments.

During Saturday's open practice, which was held in front of over 25,000 fans at Levi's Stadium, head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he is still nostalgic when he comes to work knowing that he grew up as part of the Niner Faithful himself. That hasn't changed even after six months on the job.

Former 49ers defensive end Justin Smith, known by many as "The Cowboy," wore the number 94 on his jersey and wore it well for seven seasons with the team. He is among the most respected defensive stars in the history of the franchise. When rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas decided to wear Smith's former number in honor of a player who he admires, DeMarcus Ware, the former 49ers great didn't have an issue with it.

In a show of respect, general manager John Lynch called Smith to see how he felt about possibly having his number reissued. It has been the only conversation that the two have had with each other. Smith, who retired following the 2014 season, has been perfectly happy in his time away from the NFL.

"I talked to [Lynch] one time, I believe," Smith said on the "Gary & Larry" show on KNBR. "He's called about the new guy (Thomas) wearing my number. I said, 'Hey, that's what they're there for – to be worn. That's no problem with me.'

"That was it but for him to reach out and talk to you – I mean, he played forever. I was around when he was playing. He was the man. He laid the hammer down and just a good, respectful guy. He knows how to treat people in football because he played and he also knows what to expect. I'm sure they're having as tough of a camp as they can have under them."

Smith was asked if he feels Thomas has what it takes to be successful in the NFL.

"Until you play, it's all hype to me," Smith said. "I'm sure he's got all the tools. It's how he's going to fit into that scheme. 4-3 is a different animal than a 3-4. Everybody knows that but how do you use him? Is he going to be playing the pass rush, the big end? Are they going to move him down inside when it's pass rush time? All those types of things of how you use a guy and how he translates."

You can listen to the entire interview on KNBR.

Over the course of his 14-year career, which was split evenly between the Cincinnati Bengals and 49ers, Smith had 880 total tackles, 87 sacks, 27 passes defensed, three interceptions, and 17 forced fumbles during regular season play. He added 28 tackles and two sacks during nine postseason appearances.