Often times the phrases, "must win game" or "this is a big game" are thrown around so early and often, that it loses its meaning. For the San Francisco 49ers, there may not be a "big game" anytime soon, but a "big day" may be just around the corner…and yes, July is just ending.
Outside linebacker Aldon Smith is scheduled to meet with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on August 8th. The meeting between the two will likely determine the length of Smith's long expected suspension.
For more than a year now Smith has made news off the field for all the wrong reasons. In 2012 the fourth-year pro was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Miami, charged with possessing illegal assault weapons and received a DUI in San Jose, California in September of 2013.
Since then, the Niners sack specialist has been attempting to keep his nose clean. Smith voluntarily checked himself into a substance-abuse-treatment center last season and missed a total of five games. Back in October Goodell told reporters that Smith's attempt at addressing the situation would be taken into consideration.
The Missouri product told reporters last week at Niners camp that he's in, "the best shape [he's] ever been in." and credits it to being sober since September.
Whether or not his attempts will truly sway the commissioner into being lenient remains to be seen, but if the Pro Bowl pass rusher does miss a significant time, the Niners will have to prepare themselves.
A battle to see who the next man in line is has squared off, and two lead dogs have emerged. On Thursday, San Jose Mercury News' Cam Inman reported that veteran linebacker Dan Skuta lined up at right outside linebacker for the first team unit. The sixth-year pro out of Grand Central State appeared in all 16 regular season games and started eight of them in his first season with the 49ers. However the veteran linebacker has only gathered half a sack between his lone season in SF and four seasons in Cincinnati.
His biggest competition comes in the form of second-year player Corey Lemonier. The former third round pick out of Auburn has added some build (10 pound of muscle according to Inman) and has looked strong in camp so far. Lemonier accumulated 15 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble during last years rookie season.
A split between the two could be in order as it will be difficult for either player to duplicate the type of production Smith has posted in his brief three year career, most notably: 42 sacks in 43 regular season games.
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