In 2013, the 49ers had to make to do without pass-rusher Aldon Smith for five games, as a result of his off-field infractions. This year, the team will miss Smith’s services for nearly twice that much action.
The NFL suspended Smith for nine games, citing violations of league policies on substance abuse and personal conduct. San Francisco has a bye in Week 8, so the linebacker won’t be able to play for the team until Week 11 at the earliest.
In a statement released by the team today, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke had this to say: “Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team. Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”
The season ahead also includes the lengthy absence of fellow star linebacker Navorro Bowman, who is recovering from a major knee injury suffered in January’s NFC championship game. Bowman, a former star at Suitland High, was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list, meaning that he will miss the 49ers’ first six games at a minimum. In addition, the team is merely hoping defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, on the mend from a torn biceps, can come back late in the season.
San Francisco’s first seven games include dates with the high-powered offenses of the Cowboys, Bears, Cardinals, Eagles and Broncos, so the team figures to sorely miss the services of Smith, Bowman and Dorsey. According to nfl.com reporter Ian Rapoport, the 49ers were hoping for a shorter suspension for Smith.
Safe to say, this 9-game suspension is way more than the #49ers believed was coming for Aldon Smith.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2014
Smith’s five-game absence in 2013 followed a DUI arrest and included a stint at a rehab center, but that was just one of the linebacker’s off-field problems. From the Associated Press:
In his latest run-in with the law, Smith was arrested April 13 at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.
In November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home. Investigators said several shots were fired, two partygoers were injured and Smith was stabbed. In the subsequent investigation, prosecutors say detectives found five unregistered, illegal weapons in Smith’s house.
Smith will be allowed to remain with the team during his suspension, so at least the 49ers can try and keep an eye on him during the weeks ahead.