The NFL has dropped the hammer on San Francisco 49ers star outside linebacker Aldon Smith, and it shows that commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t playing games anymore. It was once thought that Smith would be able to escape with just a three-game suspension, and some even thought that there was a possibility he could walk away with less. That isn’t the case, however, as the league announced that they have suspended Smith for a hefty nine games.
It’s a big blow to the 49ers defense, which will already be without superstar inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for the first half of the season as he recovers from a torn ACL. The 49ers have plenty of depth behind the best LB corps in the NFL, as ILBs Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland are solid, and the 49ers have some nice edge rushing options with the likes of second-year pro Corey Lemonier worth watching.
Smith violated both the league’s substance-abuse and personal conduct policies, and it’s the latter that the league probably took the most issue with. The sack-master made an untimely bomb joke at an airport and has a serious drinking problem, so his off-field exploits are well-documented. With each subsequent report, Smith’s projected suspension length increased from three games, to four-six games, and then to six-to-eight games. His actual suspension surpasses all those totals, but his absence will help the 49ers in the long run given the chance of someone becoming a key “next man up”.