Smith is on an indefinite leave of absence from the defending NFC champion 49ers while undergoing treatment for substance abuse at an in-patient facility following a DUI arrest Sept. 20.
The 24-year-old Smith also is facing three felony charges of illegal possession of an assault weapon in a case stemming from a 2012 party at his home.
The 49ers believe Smith's issues run deep, sources told ESPN, and that the Pro Bowler has plenty of work to do on turning around his life before anyone can think about him returning to the football field.
The Niners hope Smith will benefit from that all the help he is receiving in the rehab facility and that he ultimately can salvage not only his career, but his life.
Even if Smith does return to San Francisco this season, the 49ers know how tenuous the situation is. Smith is one strike away from a year-long suspension.
Smith, who set a franchise record with 19.5 sacks last season, is on the reserve non-football injury list while in rehab, and there is no NFL minimum for number of games he must miss while on the list.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh would not say Wednesday whether he anticipates Smith returning to the team this season.
Smith is likely to face a suspension from the NFL, perhaps pushed back to next season or after his legal issues are resolved.
Smith, selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, had previously been arrested on suspicion of DUI in January 2012 in Miami shortly after the 49ers lost in the NFC title game.
ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.