Smith and the Niners have been anticipating the suspension the entire offseason after the All-Pro linebacker violated the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policy on multiple occasions. Over the past month, multiple reports indicated that Smith could be looking at a suspension between six and eight games. The Niners hoped that Aldon's five-game voluntary leave during last season, in which he checked himself into a treatment center, would help shorten his suspension. The league said they came to the final decision of nine games by suspending Smith for four games for the substance abuse and five games for the personal conduct policy.
"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."
Smith will be eligible to return for the 49ers week 11 matchup against the New York Giants. The Niners have a week eight bye and will miss three divisional games during Smith's absence. The 24-year old will miss both games against the St. Louis Rams and one matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. Notably, no games will be missed against the Seattle Seahawks.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the fourth-year pro has already appealed his suspension and lost, so the nine games is final. Additionally, Smith will be allowed to remain around the Niners' facilities during his suspension. This could prove to be significant for Smith in order to ensure he stays out of trouble, as well as stay in shape and be game ready for when he is able to return.
Smith has looked strong during training camp and in the preseason and according to Smith himself, the linebacker is in the best shape of his life due to being sober since his latest DUI last year.
The Niners were 5-0 during Smith's absence last season, however, this year's absence will coincide with All-Pro inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman's injury, which will presumably sideline Bowman for roughly half the season.
Smith, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft has accumulated 42 sacks in 43 career games. Sixth-year pro Dan Skuta will likely fill Smith's spot for the majority of the season. Skuta played in all 16 games last season, starting eight of them, and picking up 28 tackles and zero sacks.
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