San Francisco 49ers star pass rusher Aldon Smith saw his felony gun charges reduced to misdemeanors about a week ago, was arrested for a DUI earlier this offseason, and will have to serve 11 days of work release. More importantly to 49ers fans, Smith will likely face a 4-6 game suspension for these off-field transgressions, but ESPN insider and former GM Bill Polian did state earlier this offseason that the troubled outside linebacker would only get a three-game suspension “at most”.
ESPN NFL Nation’s Bill Williamson reports that Smith is expected to fly to New York to meet with commissioner Roger Goodell “sometime in the near future” to learn what sort of punishment he will face from the league. It’s anyone’s guess as to what Goodell will do, but most people expect a suspension of some significance to be levied against the 24-year-old Missouri product. Per Williamson, this meeting between Smith and Goodell could occur next week, but the exact date isn’t clear at this point in time.
Smith recorded 8.5 sacks in 11 appearances last season after notching a whopping 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons, so he’s clearly one of the NFL’s marquee pass rushers. Star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman isn’t expected to return until after the bye week, so the league’s premier linebacker corps will exercise its depth at OLB and ILB until both players return, assuming Smith is indeed given a suspension (it would be pretty strange if Goodell uncharacteristically let him off the hook after the trouble Smith has caused). The 49ers defense will be fine without him, because, as with any elite team, all that matters is having the star players for key parts of the season; until then, the “next men up” will get valuable experience and could end up making names for themselves. In this case, the 49ers definitely have intriguing OLB talent in Dan Skuta and second-year Auburn product Corey Lemonier.