By Jasmine Gonzales |Staff Writer|
Linebacker Aldon Smith will be returning to the San Francisco 49ers defense after a nine game suspension.
The league announced in late August that Smith would be suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse polices.
Typically, when a player is suspended from a team they are not allowed to be involved in any team events, but the NFL allowed Smith to attend team meetings, strength and conditioning workouts because Smith said the support would help him in his rehabilitation process.
“Smith was not allowed to attend games, so he spent the first half of the season watching his teammates on T.V. with his family,” reported Taylor Price, senior reporter for the 49ers website.
“Some games were tough to watch, some games were good to watch,” said Smith.
“Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I’m working hard to grow from my experiences. I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process,” said Smith.
Since his September 2013 incident, Smith claims to have gone into an alcohol rehabilitation program and remains sober.
“I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me,” said Smith.
Smith joined the league in 2011 and has had three alcohol related incidents including two DUI charges and falsely reporting a bomb threat at LAX.
Smith was involved in an increasing amount of alcohol-related incidences before the league decided that a serious intervention was needed.
“I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49er organization, and 49er fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks,” Smith said when first suspended.
Since Smith’s suspension, the 49ers defense has fallen off. This season their sack percentage is at 15 percent while last year they had a 38 percent sack average.
Smith led the 49ers defense last season with the most sacks followed by NaVorro Bowman, who has also been out this season due to an injury he suffered in the 2013-2014 NFC Championship game against the Seahawks.
Smith stepped back on the practice field on Tuesday for a walk through with the team.
49ers starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick commented on Smith’s presence.
“A big lift. He’s a freak of nature on the field. He’s a huge component to our defense. So, very happy to have him back.”
Kaepernick is excited to see Smith return and potentially help the team.
Smith describes his feelings about returning to the field as “probably one of the most exciting times of my life.”
49ers head coach Jim Harbough said, “He’ll have a clean slate moving forward.”
Smith is not part of the 49ers’s 53 man roster, so in order for him to be able to play, they must drop a man from the roster.
Although Smith is not on the roster, one of his replacement linebackers Chris Borland has been playing with an injured shoulder.
It remains to be seen if the 25-year-old Smith can stay on the field and avoid any further problems with the law.
The Niners’ are currently third in the NFC West, one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL.