SANTA CLARA -- All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith figures to see a lot of playing time Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in his return after a five-game absence.
Smith routinely played every defensive snap for the 49ers before taking a voluntary leave of absence Sept. 23 to seek treatment for substance abuse.
[RELATED: Smith's status for Sunday a 'football decision']
Will he play every every snap in his return to action at Candlestick Park?
“After a six-week layoff, he might not be ready, conditioning-wise,” 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Every game takes on its own personality. How many plays you’re playing. How many plays you’re playing in a row. How many plays you’re playing in different packages. It remains a fluid situation.
“I’m sure he’ll play some. We’re monitoring the situation. If nothing happens between now and then, I’m anticipating that. But nothing’s been etched in stone, yet.”
Smith returned to the practice field on Monday. He was a full participant in on-field work on Wednesday when the 49ers had their one padded practice of the week.
“He was a little rusty, obviously, from the six-week layoff,” Fangio said. “But I expect him to get it back very quickly. He’s not like a guy coming back from an injury that he has to overcome. He just has to overcome inactivity.”
Fangio was not so certain that cornerback Eric Wright and defensive lineman Tank Carradine would be available for Sunday’s game. Both Wright and Carradine are going through their first week of practices this season.
Carradine, who sustained a torn ACL in his final season at Florida State, was on the reserve/non-football injury list before his promotion to the 53-man roster.
“He’s progressing and getting better,” Fangio said. “He’s still fighting through his injury and fighting through learning the system and playing the way we want to play. He’s making good progress.”
Wright, like Smith was on the reserve/non-football illness list, until his activation to the 53-man roster this week.