Time is right for Aldon Smith to return

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers took a lot of heat when they decided to play Aldon Smith in the Week 3 loss to the Colts.

Perhaps they will take heat again for activating him to the 53-man roster days after he was released from alcohol treatment, although it's mandated by the NFL because he's been released from treatment.

I don't think they should take heat. The 49ers have had Smith's best interest at heart all along.

It certainly didn't look good when Smith played against the Colts. It was two days after his second arrest on suspicion of drunken driving since he entered the NFL, and it was the day before he entered treatment.

The 49ers have been open about the criticism they received for letting Smith play. I believe they didn't want Smith to be away from the team during the weekend, and they were trying all they could do to get him to go to treatment.

Now that he has been activated so soon after being out of treatment, I'm sure there will be rumblings that he's being rushed back to the field. But I don't see it that way.

Smith has been monitored by physicians and treatment experts. The 49ers wouldn't have activated him unless they were told he has made the necessary progress.

What else should Smith be doing? If it has been deemed he is ready to be back in society, then he should be back to his normal routine. That is football. He needs to stay busy and be productive.

Yes, he has to make lifestyle changes and will need support, but all that is in place. The 49ers have supported Smith emotionally and financially during this difficult time. Now, it's time for him to go back to football.

If Smith suffers a setback, then he and the 49ers will have to react accordingly. But as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has said through this progress, the team is taking it one day at a time with Smith.

Football is now part of that timeline.