Outside linebacker Aldon Smith was a force when he was on the football field. With his combination of size, speed and athleticism, he caused havoc for opposing offensive lineman. In his first couple of years, he was set an NFL record for sacks with 33.5. He was on his way to what some thought was a Hall Of Fame career with his performances. But unfortunately, a string of arrests over the years caused him to falter on that promise that many saw in him. He was arrested or charged four times since 2012. After his last arrest, in which he was arrested at the San Jose airport because he allegedly claimed he was carrying a bomb, he was suspended for 9 games. When he completed his suspension, it was pretty clear that he was on thin ice in his career because of the legal issues. This offseason, the San Francisco organization was enthused as to what they saw from Smith so far. He was working hard and there was thoughts that he had got it back on track. But with just one incident this week, all that hard work to get to the season went away. Smith was arrested for an alleged hit and run, DUI and vandalism. Smith claims that it was not a DUI and that will be debated in court, but the 49ers made up their mind at that point that he was not going to be a member of the team. San Francisco released the talented defensive end in the latest turn of events for a team. But what is next for Aldon going forward?
Smith has apparently had an issue with drinking. This is his second arrest in which a DUI has been mentioned and that has to be alarming. And if anyone has forgotten, the first incident he nearly killed himself while driving intoxicated. The five arrests over three and a half years are definitely something that can take your attention away from what is going on in regards to his play. But at this point, playing should be the least of what he should be thinking about. Smith, while talented, has some things to work out off the field. And even though teammates talked about his abilities on the field, there were others that voiced their concerns about him off the field. Anquan Boldin, when speaking of Aldon, had this to say: “I’m more concerned about him as a person. Football doesn’t come into play.” This incident is no doubt bad when it comes to Smith’s playing career and a suspension is more than likely coming for the NFL. But in a sense, this suspension may be something that can help him in life. It takes away football, but as a person he has some things to work out. There apparently seems to be some issues with alcoholism. And if that assumption is correct, then Smith needs to get help and get help fast. He voluntarily entered a rehab facility during the 2013 season after his single-car accident involving DUI and possession of marijuana and missed some time on the field. After this new incident, it may be time to go visit a facility again and for an extended amount of time. He is an important player on the field, but his life is more important than the game. And if he does not get his life under control, it could end badly for him. For his sake, I hope he gets the help he needs. But he won’t alone in getting that help he needs either.
The 49ers released the talented outside linebacker, but that does not mean they are washing their hands of Smith. It is reported that San Francisco brass had made up their mind that he was going to be released. In normal circumstances, the team would let the player know he was released through whatever aspect and then go through the process of getting his things out of the locker room. But Trent Baalke, who drafted Aldon in 2012 out of the University of Missouri, took some time out to do something different. Instead of just letting Aldon go about his way, Baalke took the time to talk to Smith while head coach Jim Tomsula talked to the media about Smith’s release. Baalke admitted that he was with Smith during the press conference but what he also said was something that you rarely hear from general managers of organizations after a player messes up: “I’m confident he’s going to take the necessary steps, and we’re (the 49ers organization) certainly going to do what we can, and certainly going to be there if he needs us.” Baalke went on to talk about how the decision had nothing to do with football and more about a human being. All indications are that the 49ers will be there for Smith as much as they possibly can during his time of need. In this aspect, I can commend the 49ers for doing what they are. Usually an organization would toss a player to the side for continually messing up and getting in trouble. But with the emotion shown from some players along with Tomsula at the press conference, the team is showing that they actually care about Aldon Smith the man and not just Aldon Smith the football player. And in this day in sports, that is very rare. Many organizations would not do this, but the 49ers did and that is something that will surely be remembered by Smith as he tries to right things in his life.
The end of the Aldon Smith era came sooner than thought for the 49ers. But hopefully this bitter ending can turn into something that can spur a comeback in his life in general. You can tell that Aldon is a guy that many in the 49ers organization care for. And hopefully this time is the time he gets it together. As for the 49ers, they did something many organizations would not do in the business of the NFL. That may not win them any games when it comes to the 2015 season, but they earned the respect of some for the actions they took after they released Smith. It will be tough for them to replace him on the field. But off the field they hope they can help get things right for him.