Around the NFC West: Good news for 49ers

Around the NFC West: Dec. 19, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers expect defensive end Justin Smith to play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night.

That was the most important revelation from coach Jim Harbaugh's conversation Tuesday with KNBR radio in San Francisco.

Smith, who earned All-Pro honors at defensive tackle (first team) and defensive end (second team) last season, suffered an arm injury during a 41-34 victory at New England.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News transcribed Harbaugh's comments this way: "Knowing what I know of Justin Smith and the situation, yeah I think the Cowboy will be around. 'Cowboy' will be saddled up, ropin' and ridin'. If it's humanly possible, the Cowboy will be out there, ropin' and ridin'."

The 49ers have one of the better defensive front sevens anywhere, but the starting defensive line was the oldest in the NFL by average age entering the season. Smith has been a physical marvel, starting 185 consecutive games. But it was natural to wonder entering the season just when Smith, 33, might start to wear down.

Seattle's Marshawn Lynch has topped 100 yards rushing in each of his last two games against the 49ers. San Francisco won those games by scores of 19-17 and 13-6. Having Smith on the field and healthy enough to contribute would certainly help during what figures to be an extremely physical matchup between division rivals.