49ers' Justin Smith retires after 14-year NFL career

Santa Clara, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - The San Francisco 49ers announced Monday that defensive lineman Justin Smith has decided to retire after 14 NFL seasons.

"As a football coach, you will always be searching for the next Justin Smith, knowing full well you will never find a player quite like him," said 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula. "Everybody knows about his toughness, durability, and instincts, but his greatest attribute does not get the attention it deserves. Justin never concerned himself with personal accomplishments, his unselfish nature made that impossible. People like to say 'they broke the mold with him' but there was never a mold. Justin Smith is a hand-crafted football player."

Smith, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, was the fourth overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 2001 NFL Draft. He spent the first seven years of his career with the Bengals before joining the 49ers in 2008.

During his career, Smith started 217 of 221 games played, including a streak of 185 consecutive starts from his rookie season through December of 2012. He finished his career with 880 tackles, 87 sacks and three interceptions.

The 49ers had anticipated Smith's decision to retire and drafted Oregon product Arik Armstead with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

The decision comes roughly two months after 49ers linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announced their retirements.