Smith was arrested for drunken driving on the morning of Sept. 20. He played during the Niners’ Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, but is reportedly entering treatment and will be away from the team for the immediate future, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora:
Owner Jed York said Smith will miss the 49ers’ Thursday Night Football matchup against the St. Louis Rams, per team announcement:
At this time, there is no word of a suspension by the NFL. York said Smith will be out for the time being, but didn’t say he was suspended by the team or league, per Fox Sports 1’s Mike Garafolo:
Smith’s decision to enter treatment is a good move, the best option he had after committing his second violation in two years. The NFL consistently punishes repeat offenders with suspensions for their transgressions.
The league is also not planning any discipline for Smith in the short term. According to La Canfora, the NFL has no plans to take any action until the legal process plays out.
Opting to miss games now is an act of goodwill that the NFL may take into consideration when levying a suspension on Smith later in the season. Losing their top pass rusher now, rather than for a large stretch of games later in the season, is a more favorable result for the team.
But with the way they are playing right now, it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel—especially without Smith on the field.
The Niners have been beaten up on defense for three consecutive weeks, allowing 28 points per game after giving up just 17.1 per game a season ago. That was with Smith out there doing his best to disrupt opposing quarterbacks. He currently has 3.5 sacks, half of the team’s total through three games.
Teams are finding surprising success running the ball, totaling 138 yards per game. That’s not a number you’d expect when talking about a defense that shut down opposing rushers last season by allowing just 94.2 yards per contest.
With an offense that’s missing key pieces from week to week and largely under-performing, the Niners can’t afford to lose any edge they have left defensively. Without Smith’s disruptive ability on the edges, teams will find even more room to pass and more space to run the ball.
Without Smith, the Niners defense has an impossible task of keeping games close if their offense continues to flounder.