NAPA – Aldon Smith is going through hard times. General manager Reggie McKenzie made it clear on Saturday afternoon that the Raiders wouldn’t abandon him.
The talented edge rusher, plagued by off-field problems and currently suspended for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, has checked himself into rehab and it’s uncertain whether he’ll join the Raiders this season.
McKenzie didn’t care. He wants Smith to get healthy, nothing more.
“We’re going to support Aldon the person,” McKenzie said. “Whether he comes back to us or not, that has no bearing on anything. We told him from Day 1 that we care more about the person than the player. Whatever he does to ensure his health, we’re going to stand behind him.”
Smith hasn’t been a Raider long. He signed with the Silver and Black in Sept. 2015, shortly after the 49ers released him following his latest run-in with the law. Smith made a positive impression on the franchise during nine games before his suspension, enough to sign a two-year, $11.5 million deal that pays only if he returns to the field.
The Raiders were fully aware of Smith’s situation, which includes pending misdemeanor charges of DUI with a prior conviction, hit and run and vandalism. Smith can be reinstated by the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell in November at the earliest. His association with an Periscope video featuring a man who identifies himself as Aldon Smith without appearing on screen discusses a hand-rolled cigarette with an unidentified female complicated matters and prompted an NFL investigation.
There is no timetable for his reinstatement, and Smith must prove worthy of a return to the league.
“We knew his situation,” McKenzie said. “It’s not like we had blinders on. Going into last year, we knew a suspension was probable. It’s going to be an uphill battle for him. He’s going to have to fight the good fight, but we’re not going to bail on him. He has to do his part.”