Aldon Smith, a star linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers, has been suspended for nine games of the 2014 NFL season.
Randall Liu, the NFL's director of NFC football communications, reported the news on Twitter:
49ers Aldon Smith suspended 9 games. Full NFL statement here: pic.twitter.com/cvZfABog45— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) August 29, 2014
Niners general manager Trent Baalke chimed in on the suspension, via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area:
49ers GM Baalke on Smith suspension:"We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us...” http://t.co/7pn5aLjGBx— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 29, 2014
As for other general managers around the league, Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report passes along one response:
AFC GM: "That loud noise you heard was the 49ers taking a step back."— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) August 29, 2014
Smith has been awaiting the decision for a while, but it became official on Friday. Initial reports from Maiocco were that Smith would serve six to eight games, but the nine-game suspension is even worse than expected.
Prior to the release of the news, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report noted he was hoping to hear a decision before the weekend:
I would hope we hear word on Aldon Smith and Greg Hardy discipline (or no discipline) today. NFL can't wait much longer.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) August 29, 2014
Jimmy Spencer of Fox Sports passed along his thoughts on the announcement:
Aldon Smith gets a nine-game suspension. I’m good with that.— Jimmy Spencer (@JimmySpencerNBA) August 29, 2014
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports points out what might have gone into the decision:
Aldon Smith has had a series of incidents and displayed some repeated dangerous behavior. Obviously that always looms large w/NFL— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 29, 2014
Ed Werder of ESPN notes how the suspension was broken down:
Source says Aldon Smith 9-game suspension broke down this way: 4 games substance-abuse violation, 5 games personal-conduct violations— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) August 29, 2014
Per the announcement from Liu, Smith will not be permitted to return to the field until Nov. 10. That follows a crucial matchup with the New Orleans Saints, another potential NFC contender.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes some good and bad news on the situation:
Aldon Smith does get to be around the facility for his 9-game suspension, I'm told. That's something the team wanted very badly.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2014
#49ers LB Aldon Smith has already appealed and lost. So the 9-game suspension is final.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 29, 2014
What are your thoughts on Smith's suspension?
In just 11 games on the field last season, Smith still collected 8.5 sacks and 34 combined tackles. During his last full season in 2012, Smith tallied 19.5 sacks and 66 tackles, proving to be a difference-maker for the Niners.
Without Smith on the field, San Francisco's linebacker corps will have a new look. After putting NaVorro Bowman on the PUP list earlier this week, the Niners will be without either until Week 7 of the 2014 season.
As for the team that Smith leaves behind, La Canfora notes this tremendously hurts its chances of a championship:
NFL has announced a 9-game suspension for 49er Aldon Smith. Um, re-thinking my Super Bowl pick— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) August 29, 2014
With a daunting upcoming schedule, the nine-game suspension handcuffs the Niners on defense. If he had served just six games, the minimum Maiocco reported, he would have been on the field against the Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams (for the teams' second matchup) and Saints.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee notes how huge the extra three games were for the team:
#49ers knew Aldon Smith would be suspended but were thinking along the lines of six games. Nine has to be a bit of a blow to them.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 29, 2014
Last season, the 49ers went 12-4 and were just one win shy of a second straight appearance in the Super Bowl. Without Smith on the field for the team through the first nine weeks of the season, San Francisco could scuffle defensively against a tough slate.
Playing against the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Broncos and Saints during that span, San Francisco will have an uphill battle. But after going 5-0 without Smith on the field last season, it knows what it takes to win without him.
Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.