For someone who wants his to team to be “above reproach,” Jim Harbaugh has put himself and the San Francisco 49ers’ organization in a tight spot by planning to play Aldon Smith on Sunday against the Colts after the linebacker was arrested for suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana on Friday.
Smith has no business to be in an NFL stadium this Sunday. He shouldn’t even be at practice, for that matter. The 49ers need to keep Smith away from the team for a bit to let him think about the consequences of his actions that could very well cost him his career one day, if he keeps heading down this path.
But, that’s not how the NFL works, and the 49ers are no exception. Aldon Smith will be playing this Sunday because the 49ers need their top defensive player on the field.
Never mind that he was just arrested for driving drunk at seven in the morning after spending the night at a San Francisco nightclub. Never mind that he has a track record in the police logs, with four (count ‘em) previous incidents.
Smith was arrested in Jan. 2012 in Miami Beach on suspicion of DUI. Six months later, he was stabbed at a party at his home, and he also fired his gun into the air in an attempt to break up the party (he is now facing a lawsuit for allegedly shooting someone in the leg). In September of that same year, Smith was a passenger in a car that crashed while swerving to avoid a deer. Then, to finish off a hectic 2012, Smith was allegedly “jumped” at a restaurant in Missouri in November.
Add Friday’s incident to that list. Does this seem like a guy who has learned from his mistakes and has made good decisions with his newfound money and fame? Or does it sound like he needs help, and he needs it fast?
By allowing him to play on Sunday, the 49ers are clearly not sending him a message that this kind of behavior cannot be tolerated. Instead, they’re telling him that as long as he’s healthy and able to contribute to the team, he will be suiting up every Sunday, no matter how many DUIs he racks up.
It’s the double-standard that is seen so often, with those highly-talented players getting preferential treatment over the everyday Joes. Take, for example, Demarcus Dobbs, who was charged with the exact same crimes as Smith last season, yet the 49ers decided to deactivate him for one game and travel to St. Louis without him.
Or take Brandon Jacobs, who the 49ers suspended for three games last season after he called out the team on social media for his lack of playing time. The official reason for the suspension was “conduct detrimental to the team.”
So how can the 49ers justify their reluctance to discipline Smith while they punished Dobbs and Jacobs for equal and lesser misconducts? If criticizing the team on social media is “detrimental,” then how is Smith being charged for a second DUI in less than a year not “detrimental” to himself and the entire organization?
Aldon Smith is just 23 years old. He already is a Pro Bowler and a member of the All-Pro team. He has already won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, in addition to the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award, and NFL Alumni Linebacker of the Year Award. He also holds the 49ers’ single-season sack record, is the fastest player in NFL history to record 30 sacks, and holds an NFL record with 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons.
There’s no denying that Aldon Smith is a special talent, and the 49ers are better with him on the field. But if Jim Harbaugh and Co. want to stay “above reproach,” then they must discipline their young star and make sure his career doesn’t veer off the tracks.