SANTA CLARA -- Justin Smith's 2011 season earned him three team awards, All-Pro nods at two defensive-line positions and a Pro Bowl berth.
But he wasn't one of the 49ers' captains.
He is now.
After Saturday's practice, teammates selected Smith and quarterback Alex Smith to serve alongside last season's incumbent captains, running back Frank Gore and linebacker Patrick Willis.
"Anytime you're named by your teammates, it's always cool," said Smith, noting that his acceptance speech was "short and sweet."
Ray McDonald spilled the beans on what his fellow defensive tackle told the team: "Go out there and kick butt. Kick butt every play and that will take care of everything else."
Smith plans to do just that when the 49ers open the regular season next Sunday in Green Bay, where he'll start his 172nd consecutive game, the fifth-longest streak among active players.
Last season's Packers possessed the league's highest-scoring offense and MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Their offensive line is suspect, however, and Smith has been watching film "for a while" to find an edge.
"We know they'll give us some wrinkles," Smith said. "We're ready to roll. We're ready to get up there and do our thing."
Smith did his "thing" so well in last season's run to the NFC title game that a slew of honors followed. He won the 49ers' Len Eschmont, Bill Walsh and Matt Hazeltine awards for exemplary play. The Associated Press named
So how does he follow coach Jim Harbaugh's teamwide credo to "get better every day" after 11 rock-solid seasons?
"He's honed up on all his skills," McDonald said. "He's smart and works hard. He's always passionate. To say he's picked it up because we lost that (NFC Championship) game) wouldn't do him justice, because he's always like that."
Harbaugh attempted to give Smith an all-encompassing compliment by simply defining him as, "a football player," which Harbaugh said is what any "true competitor" would want to be known as.
Smith spent his first seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals before coming in 2008 to the 49ers. He called last season's success fun, adding: "Let's carry that over, handle our business and win some more."
What gave Tolzien the edge? Harbaugh declined to say, other than to call the six-month competition a "dead heat."
"I might bust it out today. It smells so good," said running back Anthony Dixon, who made the roster for a third year and plans to become a special-teams catalyst.
Dixon said each player also received a black, 49ers-embossed wallet, with a list of the team's five goals written inside it.
"The whole time, I was nervous," said Celek, who was a blocking-oriented tight end at Michigan State.
Celek's brother Brent plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. "He was super excited for me and guided me through the whole process."