Aldon Smith's Rehab Stint Will Factor into NFL's Discipline Decision
San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Aldon Smith has been out of action since Week 3, and while supplemental discipline is possible on the heels of a Sept. 20 arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana, his stint in rehab will play a role, according to Bill Williamson of ESPN.com.
Smith was allowed to play against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 despite being arrested just a couple days earlier, but he hasn't been on the field since the Niners' loss after he willingly entered a treatment center on Sept. 23.
According to Williamson, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that he will take Smith's time in rehab under consideration when deciding whether or not the league will take disciplinary action against him.
"Yes, it will be a factor, for sure," Goodell said.
While Goodell has taken a hard-line approach against off-field shenanigans since taking over the job from Paul Tagliabue in 2006, he seems to be impressed by how quickly Smith and the 49ers organization acted in terms of curtailing Smith's substance abuse issues.
"Certainly, the issue here isn't to discipline players. It's to stop the behavior," Goodell said. "Aldon has voluntarily said, 'I need help.'"
"We're obviously there to support him, and the 49ers did a great job getting him into a facility to try to get help. We support that."
It remains to be seen how long Smith will be suspended for, if he is at all, but Williamson reports that the 49ers plan on meeting with Smith soon, and they believe that he will be back with the team at some point this season provided he continues to make progress.
Should Smith be suspended when he returns from rehab?
Smith's return would be a major coup for a San Francisco defense that continues to play well despite his absence. Smith had 33.5 sacks over his first two NFL seasons, and he had 4.5 in three games this season before entering rehab.
There is no question that he is a game-changer as he very well may be the best and most explosive pass-rusher in the NFL.
The 49ers figure to be in a battle with the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title all season long, and it's possible that Smith's return would help tip the scales in San Francisco's favor.
Whatever the case, Goodell appears to have some measure of remorse for Smith's situation, and that certainly bodes well for him moving forward.
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