The 49ers received yet another crippling gut punch after star outside linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, vandalism and hit-and-run.
By noon Friday, San Francisco had released Smith from the team, team officials said in a statement:
“This organization has tried very hard to help Aldon fight his issues. … Although he is no longer a member of this team, our support and concern for him will continue.”
Smith was arrested Thursday night, according to the Santa Clara Police Department. Thursday’s arrest marks the fourth time the 49ers star has been arrested since 2012, and the third time Smith has been booked on DUI charges. Smith was arrested for drunken driving in 2012 in Miami and again in 2013 after crashing into a tree in San Jose.
The arrest comes at a bad time for both Smith and the 49ers, who had figured to be a key element to the success of the 49ers depleted defense. Smith was also entering a contract year, and figured to receive a significant contract offer in the offseason.
Smith recently served a nine-game suspension at the start of the 2014 season stemming from his troubled past, which includes an arrest for an alleged bomb threat at LAX, as well as charges for possession of illegal weapons on top of his other three DUI charges.
Smith’s arrest comes after an offseason that saw the young star being praised by his new head coach Jim Tomsula, as well as general manager Trent Baalke for his work both on and off the field.
Speaking candidly to reporters on Tuesday, Baalke stated that he not only intended to re-sign the star linebacker, but also praised his personal growth:
“Aldon’s like any young player, he’s growing up, he’s maturing … Really pleased with the way he’s handled things, the way he’s working both personally and professionally. I think he’s doing an outstanding job.”
Tomsula also spoke highly of Smith during a press conference Sunday, echoing Baalke’s comments that the linebackers troubles were supposedly behind him:
“I’m really happy for and excited for Aldon. I respect what Aldon’s doing and I respect what Aldon’s, the road he’s on. Life throws things at you, man. Sometimes you cause them, sometimes you don’t, but things happen. To me, the answer’s always in you. The answer is always how you handle it and where you go from there. Own it, fix it, let’s go.”
The 49ers caught a small break throughout the ordeal, as Smith’s restructured $9.75 million contract was not fully guaranteed upfront, rather it would have been paid throughout the season. After Thursday night’s arrest, Smith will see neither the playing field nor the majority of his contract.
Ahmad Brooks figures to retain his starting role on defense, while linebacker Aaron Lynch seems slated to gain a starting role alongside him once he progresses with his conditioning. The 49ers will also benefit heavily from drafting rookie OLB Eli Harold, who seemed like a luxury after being taken in the third round of this year’s draft.
Both Harold and forgotten linebacker Corey Lemonier looked strong during this week’s first padded practice Tuesday. It’s now likely either of the two young linebackers can see significant playing time as the team scrambles to replace the talented Smith.
— Janine De la Vega (@JaninePAPD) August 7, 2015