Sunday, April 13, 2014
Smith arrest troubling for many reasons
By Bill Williamson
Initial thoughts on the arrest of San Francisco 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith Sunday at the Los Angeles International Airport:
Troubling times: The arrest is the latest in a string of legal issues for the team, considered a favorite to make a run at the 2015 Super Bowl. Two weeks ago, starting cornerback Chris Culliver was arrested after a hit-and-run accident involving a bicyclist. He has been charged with a felony and two misdemeanors. Thursday, it was reported quarterback Colin Kaepernick and receiver Quinton Patton are being investigated as part of an incident in Miami involving a 25-year-old woman. Kaepernick took to Twitter to deny any wrongdoing. Kaepernick and Smith are two of the 49ers’ best players and the team wants to keep both for the long haul. Seeing headlines like these has to be beyond worrisome for the club.
What’s Smith’s future? Because he was a first-round pick in 2011, the 49ers must decide by May 3 whether or not to give Smith an option for 2015. It was previously considered a no-brainer for the 49ers to lock in Smith, one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL, for another season. If not, he will be a free agent at the end of this season. However, his latest arrest -- he has two other pending criminal cases -- will likely make the 49ers think about the option. The 49ers have other contracts looming (including Kaepernick's). If they feel they can’t trust Smith, they may not exercise the option, which would pay him more than $9 million in 2015. Smith missed five games last season (the team went 5-0 without him) when he sought treatment for substance abuse. The team has vowed to stand by him as long as he continued to stay straight off the field. It’s another reason why this arrest is so troubling.
League discipline is in play: The 49ers may have to play without Smith for a portion of this season. This latest incident could trigger discipline from the NFL. The league did not suspend Smith after the September arrest on a drunk driving charge. In October, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the fact that Smith voluntarily sought treatment could play a role in him not getting a suspension. I’m sure the league office is not pleased to see Smith in custody again.