LONDON – All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith's decision to enter treatment for substance abuse will be considered when it is time for the NFL to hand down discipline for his off-field actions, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.
CSNBayArea.com asked Goodell on Saturday morning whether Smith’s voluntary leave of absence will be factored into any potential suspension. Smith entered an in-patient facility on Sept. 23.
“Certainly,” Goodell said. “The issue here is not to discipline players. The issue here is to stop the behavior. And Aldon, to your point, has voluntarily said, ‘I need help.’ We are obviously there to support him, and the 49ers did a great job getting him into a facility to try to get that help. And so we all support that.
“So, yes, it will be factor, for sure.”
Smith was arrested on Sept. 20 and ultimately charged with two misdemeanor DUI charges include one count alleging he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, which is nearly double the legal limit. He also faces three felony charges for possession of illegal assault rifles.
Smith will miss his fifth consecutive game on Sunday when the 49ers face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Wembley Stadium. The 49ers expect to meet with Smith in the near future to determine the organization’s next course of action.
General manager Trent Baalke said Friday that Smith must show “progress” after checking out of the rehab facility in order to return to the 49ers this season.
When asked how “progress” is defined, Baalke said there are a lot of factors that will be considered.
“I think there are a lot of layers to looking at the progress,” Baalke said. “It’s using every vehicle you have. (It’s) no different than what we do in the scouting process when gathering information. There are a lot of layers to it. And you do the best you can to determine the decisions that you need to make for the organization.”
The 49ers are continuing to pay Smith his full weekly salary of $98,978 during his time away from the team. It is not known whether he will still face any kind of reduced suspension from the NFL, but he is expected to incur a fine of at least two weeks’ salary, a source told CSNBayArea.com.
Smith was allowed to play just two days after his DUI arrest. The 49ers had no recourse to suspend Smith for the game without pay. Team officials, including Baalke, said the 49ers acted in what they believed to be Smith’s best interests.
When asked for his thoughts on Smith playing in the Sept. 22 game against the Indianapolis Colts, Goodell pinned the blame onto the NFL Players Association.
“We’ve made a couple of proposals to our union that we should take quicker action,” Goodell said. “But they’ve resisted that. And so we have to operate within the context of our collect bargaining agreement and our joint drug program. So that’s something we weren’t in position to be able to do.”
Smith, the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as last season’s 49ers MVP, recorded more sacks (33.5) in his first two NFL seasons than any player since the sack became an official statistic in 1982. He has a team-high 4.5 sacks in just three games this season.