San Francisco 49ers Pro Bowl linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended nine games under the NFL’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies. Smith has a history of off-field issues, which had to factor into him receiving this type of discipline. He was initially tagged with felony gun charges following a party at his home in 2012, where two people were shot and Smith himself was stabbed, per The Associated Press, via ESPN.com. After his court sentencing, though, Smith’s gun charges were dropped to misdemeanors.
Smith also was charged with DUI in 2013 after crashing his car into a tree, with his blood-alcohol level twice the legal limit.
Although he was sentenced to three years’ probation and 12 days in jail, Smith was required to serve just one of those days, as the judge permitted him to be on a work crew for the other 11 days.
“In the end, we treated Aldon like any other person in similar circumstances,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Brian Buckelew. “We’re optimistic that the punishment will be sufficient to get him on the right track.”
That brought some closure to Smith’s saga, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office evidently weren’t finished punishing Smith for his transgressions outside the white lines.
In September 2013, Smith took an indefinite leave of absence from the team and entered rehabilitation following his DUI arrest. In April 2014, he was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport after being charged with falsely claiming he had a bomb. When he finally does return to the Niners’ lineup, it will be quite the relief for coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Expectations are high as usual for San Francisco after advancing to the previous three NFC Championship Games, as well as Super Bowl XLVII—without a Lombardi Trophy to show for it. NaVorro Bowman tore his ACL and MCL in the conference title loss to the NFC West rival Seattle Seahawks, which already put San Francisco’s typically elite defense at risk. Losing another marquee contributor and its top pass-rusher in Smith for a number of games makes sustaining greatness all the more difficult.
The secondary is also thinner than last season, which makes the Niners seemingly as vulnerable as any time since Harbaugh led the franchise to a breakout 2011 campaign.
As long as he can stay out of trouble, Smith will give San Francisco a big boost upon his return. If the Niners can hang tough until then, they may have enough for a strong push toward yet another deep postseason run—and perhaps a Super Bowl title this time around.