San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for nine games for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance-abuse policies. The 2012 Pro Bowler met with Commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 8 and was expected to miss games, but the length of the ban was longer than some experts expected.
However, unlike Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who is forbidden from being around his team for a full year, Smith will be able to be at the team facility and in meetings during his suspension. Of Smith's nine games, four are for the substance-abuse violations, and five are for personal conduct.
Smith was recently sentenced on weapons and DUI charges stemming from separate arrests in 2012 and 2013. He voluntarily went into rehab last season and missed five games. He was arrested for making a false bomb threat at Los Angeles International Airport in April. The Los Angeles City Attorney's office declined to press charges.
"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."
According to ESPN, Smith will lose $1.24 million of his $2.34 million salary.
The suspension is a blow to the 49ers and the team’s prospects to reach the Super Bowl. The 24-year-old has been one of the best defensive players in the league, and questions surround the 49ers defense in preseason. Smith has 42 sacks in 43 career games.
Smith will be available for the Nov. 16 game against the New York Giants. Smith's suspension technically ends on Nov. 10, meaning he will miss the Nov. 9 game against the New Orleans Saints. In the nine games, only three will be against division opponents, and none against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. In 2013, the 49ers won all five games when Smith was out of the lineup.
According to experts, Goodell is placing a stronger emphasis on punishing multiple offenders. The commissioner has earned a reputation for being tough on player conduct since replacing Paul Tagliabue in 2006.
Goodell came under criticism for his light two-game ban for Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice for domestic violence. Goodell apologized for his decision in a statement on Thursday.