NEW ORLEANS -- Asked to name some of the great pass rushers he enjoyed watching while growing up, Aldon Smith named a predictable cast -- Reggie White, Jevon Kearse, Michael Strahan.
But his favorite?
"I liked Warren Sapp," Smith said Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. "He was so relentless, even though he was coming from the middle. Hey, I like to come from the middle sometimes, too. And I like being relentless."
The upshot is that Sapp's feelings about Smith are more than mutual. He believes the second-year 49ers linebacker will have a huge day Sunday against a Baltimore Ravens offensive line that is humongous but doesn't necessarily move all that well against speed rushers. He also believes Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is the kind of stationary target tailor-made for Smith to zero in on and wreak havoc.
Pay no attention to the fact that Smith hasn't had a sack in the past five games, Sapp said.
"Believe me, Aldon is still all over place," said Sapp. "It ain't about the numbers sometimes. You see the game he played against Tom Brady? Aldon scared the pants off Tom with his pressure. He didn't get a sack in that game, but Tom would tell you he might have had three."
Sapp is in town as part of the NFL Network crew. He also is one of 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and many believe the former Tampa Bay and Oakland defensive tackle has a chance to make it in his first year of eligibility.
"I love the kid," Sapp said. "I was the first to tell everybody he's going to be a monster. He has a natural hand motion that you just can't pick up if you're trying to block him. I reached at him, stabbed him, nothing worked. I remember telling people he's going to be the next DeMarcus Ware, only his sacks are going to impact the game."
And Aldon against the Ravens' line in Super Bowl XLVII?
"Me and him talked about Bryant McKinnie some," Sapp said. "He has a plan."
McKinnie is the human bank building at left tackle for Baltimore -- 6-foot-8, 354 pounds. Smith maintained he is a challenge just because of his size, but Smith heads into the game full of confidence despite his five-game drought with sacks. For one thing, he believes he's playing just fine despite the fact that he hasn't been getting to the quarterback of late.
"I'm getting double- and triple-teamed more, and guys are chipping me, too," he said. "Even though I haven't been getting sacks, I'm happy because I feel I'm doing a lot of other things well. I'm covering guys really well, I'm making other plays, I'm doing a lot of things that are making a difference."
Coach Jim Harbaugh agreed.
"Aldon got a game ball from our team off of his performance in the Falcons game," the coach said. "He had a number of pressures and hurries and really played the run extremely well. He recovered a fumble. It was a very good and thorough game from Aldon."
Even though he was named the team's MVP on Monday in a vote of the players, Smith wasn't getting a lot of traffic at his media day podium Tuesday. OK with him, he said. He hopes he's become a forgotten man, which will create more opportunities Sunday.
There's a fat chance of that happening, said defensive end Justin Smith, whose left elbow injury has played a role in Aldon's sack slowdown. More likely, the 19½ sacks he amassed over the first 13 games changed the approach of opposing teams when they face the 49ers defense.
"I think when an offensive coordinator or head coach sits down now, the first thing they say is, 'How do we slow No. 99 down?' " the elder Smith said.
Aldon Smith confessed he'd love to have at least one sack in the Super Bowl and hopefully more. He likes his chances for a number of reasons. Noting that Justin Smith is feeling healthier, he added that so is he.
"The advantage (of the extra week) is you get your body healthy, you get your legs back," he said. " I wish we could play today, because I'm ready."