San Francisco 49ers can’t let media influence how they handle Aldon Smith

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What’s going on with Aldon Smith?

The last few months have been fairly tumultuous for the 49ers star linebacker. Smith had several run-ins with the law in recent memory. Smith was arrested for DUI in 2012 and in 2013 where he crashed his own vehicle. Smith was also charged with three felony counts of possession of an assault weapon stemming from a 2012 stabbing incident in his home. Smith’s court date for the weapons charges is April 29. Most recently, Smith was arrested at LAX airport for allegedly screaming the word “bomb” at TSA officials.

After the incident was reported, speculation as to Smith’s future with the 49ers ensued. San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami believes Smith probably won’t play for the 49ers in 2014. The 49ers have made no definite decision whether or not to cut Smith. Mark Purdy, also of the San Jose Mercury News, wrote that the 49ers should cut ties with Smith altogether.

Maybe my day job as a criminal defense attorney has something to do with it, but I think Smith deserves a little more sympathy.

It’s easy for us to read the reports and see all the negative publicity surrounding Smith and simply call for Smith’s head. But why? When it comes down to it, Aldon Smith was hired by the 49ers organization to play linebacker. His job is to play football and he does a pretty darn good job at it. All of these incidents in the news are part of Smith’s personal life. As of today, several of these incidents are merely allegations that have not yet been proven true. To simply kick Smith to the curb without knowing the full story will be a callous and irresponsible move by the 49ers organization. If anything, the 49ers should reach out to Smith and try to get him the help he needs.

Smith has demonstrated his desire to improve himself. Smith checked himself into a rehabilitation facility shortly after his 2013 DUI arrest. This prevented Smith from playing several games in the 2013 season.

The ongoing drama with Smith is not a Richie Incognito situation where the negative conduct directly impacted the team and the players. In that situation, cutting Incognito was the right move because the harassment was aimed at his teammate. Sure, Aldon Smith’s off-the-field behavior gives bad PR for the 49ers organization, but it does not affect the players directly. If Smith’s off-the-field behavior begins to impact his availability with the team — like his 2013 stint in rehab—then it will be time to go another direction. Until then, the 49ers should keep Smith’s personal matters separate.

Does Aldon Smith need to make better decisions? Most definitely. Does he deserve to be cut by the 49ers? Absolutely not.

The NFL will likely suspend Smith following the LAX incident. Smith also faces the very real possibility of serious jail time if found guilty of the weapons charges. This conversation could be rendered moot if Smith does go to jail as the 2014 season will likely not even be an option. Until Smith is found guilty, however, the 49ers should not make any rash decisions such as dropping Smith. The 49ers organization needs to stand by its players through thick and thin and not take the easy way out and succumb to media and PR pressure.


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