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Baalke: Aldon Smith 'hungry' to bounce back in 2015

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Coming off a deeply disappointing season both on and off the field, San Francisco 49ers pass-rusher Aldon Smith is "hungry" to bounce back in 2015.

That's the word general manager Trent Baalke used to describe the mind-set of the star outside linebacker who notched a career-low two sacks last season after returning from a league-imposed nine-game suspension.

"He's got a great look in his eye," Baalke told reporters Friday, per ESPN. "He's doing well. ... For anybody that's been in a situation like Aldon's been in, every day is a process. But he's doing exceptionally well and he's probably in as good a shape as he's been in a long time."

Smith is essentially tied to a one-year prove-it deal for 2015, set to earn a $1 million base salary that could balloon to more than $5.1 million if he stays on the 53-man roster for all 16 games. Baalke likes Smith's chances after seeing the 25-year-old "starting to develop into a leader out there, which is great to see and been a pleasure to watch."

The Niners desperately need Smith to hit the ground running after watching linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland announce their retirements this offseason.

It's possible the team might also lose veteran defensive lineman Justin Smith, who has long served as a blocker-swallowing setup man during Aldon's reign of terror on opposing quarterbacks. The Niners aren't the same team they were a year ago, but a return to form by Smith would keep this defense operating as a weekly headache.

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