On Sept. 22, the 49ers deemed it in Aldon Smith’s best interest to suit up with his teammates and return to the football field. It’s apparently what Smith desired.
Two days earlier, Smith crashed his truck into a tree in a residential neighborhood of San Jose. He was allegedly passed out at the wheel, his foot on the accelerator, tire rubber churning and burning onto a driveway.
That week, the 49ers had their regular meeting to discuss every player on the roster. Team officials and coaches felt as if Smith had his life in order after a series of alcohol-related incidents in the time beginning after his rookie season.
But everything changed at approximately 7 a.m. on that Friday. A breath test measured Smith's blood-alcohol content at .151, nearly twice the legal limit, according to records.
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At 12:42 p.m., when reporters were allowed to view stretching before 49ers practice that day, Smith was on the field with his teammates.
The 49ers felt it was OK for him to practice within hours of his arrest.
The 49ers believed it was best for him to play two days later – and one day before he entered in-patient treatment for substance abuse.
So, now, Smith has been activated from the non-football illness list.
The 49ers are on the bye week, and there is a mandatory four days off for the players. He will be eligible to begin practice next week.
Will Smith be on the field for the 49ers’ next game, Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers at Candlestick Park?
There has been no indication from team officials one way or the other.
But why would the organization decide to sit him on the sideline after he took the unprecedented step of a voluntary leave of absence in order to take the first steps toward making his life better?
If he was good enough to be on the field for all 72 defensive snaps and eight special-teams plays on Sept. 22 against the Indianapolis Colts, why would the 49ers decide to sit him down after he has taken the dramatic action of entering rehab?
Smith will continue to get paid for playing football, just as he did during the five games he missed. And, let’s also remember, Smith is one of the best defensive players in the league. His presence immediately makes the 49ers a better team.
Smith checked out of the rehabilitation facility. He visited with coach Jim Harbaugh on Wednesday. Harbaugh reported Smith has made “quite a bit of progress.”
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Nobody can predict with any degree of certainty just how much progress he has made. After all, this is a battle Smith will fight every day for the remainder of his life.
What can Smith gain from sitting out another game or two or the remainder of the season? Playing football is what he would normally be doing this time of year. His life may never be “normal” again, but how can taking football away from him make things any better.
Getting back into the routine of being around teammates, a support group, attending football meetings, working out, practicing and playing football seems to be a much better solution than being inactive with a lot of free time on his hands.