49ers LB Aldon Smith takes indefinite leave to enter rehab

BY foxsports • September 23, 2013

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers placed
linebacker Aldon Smith on the reserve non-football injury list Monday as
he enters rehab for substance abuse and begins what team CEO Jed York
has termed an indefinite absence.

"I am taking a leave of absence
to address my health," Smith said through the team. "I am sorry that I
have affected my team, my family and the organization. I will do
everything in my power to handle this situation the best way possible. I
appreciate the support of the 49ers and our fans."

The NFL said
there is no minimum number of games Smith must miss on the reserve
non-football injury list, and he can return when ready.

On
whether he expects Smith to return this season, coach Jim Harbaugh said
only, "there's a process, we're going to respect that process."

Smith
played Sunday and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested
and jailed Friday morning on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession.
Smith apologized after the 27-7 home loss to the Colts, and now his team
moves forward without him heading to St. Louis on Thursday.

"We're
very supportive of Aldon as we are of all of our players, all of our
coaches, our personnel. Always support it in house," Harbaugh said.
"We've hashed through it, now we're taking steps and Aldon's taking
steps. We support him in that."

San Francisco didn't immediately announce a corresponding roster move.

"We have a pretty good idea what we're going to do and we'll make that announcement," Harbaugh said.

Smith
had previously been arrested on suspicion of DUI in January 2012 in
Miami shortly after the 49ers lost in the NFC Championship Game. He is
expected to remain in the Bay Area for treatment.

He could face a
suspension from the NFL either later this season or next season, and it
is likely given he has had more than one infraction. The NFL would let
the legal process play itself out first.

Harbaugh said Dan Skuta,
Ahmad Brooks and Corey Lemonier will help fill the void left by Smith,
who had a franchise-best 19 1/2 sacks last season.

"I have confidence in those guys and know they'll do a good job," Harbaugh said. "Go with the guys we've got."

Smith, selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, turns 24 on Wednesday.

Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke ultimately decided to let Smith play before he entered rehab.

"Aldon
Smith is taking a leave of absence to address a personal matter,"
Baalke said in a statement. "The 49ers organization both respects and
supports Aldon's decision and commends him for taking responsibility for
his actions. The long-term well-being of our players is paramount and
we will stand by Aldon as he works toward addressing this issue. Due to
the private nature of the matter, we will have no further comment."

His
49ers teammates were trying their best not to let the situation become a
distraction. San Francisco (1-2) has a quick turnaround to face
division foe St. Louis on the road Thursday night.

"Coach decided
to let him play, and he was out there and made some plays," safety
Donte Whitner said. "I don't think guys were out there thinking about
Aldon being arrested."

Earlier this month, Smith and former
teammate Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara
County Superior Court by a Northern California man who said he was shot
at a party at Smith's house on June 29, 2012.

The players charged
a $10 admission and $5 per drink, the lawsuit said. Smith and
now-Titans tight end Delanie Walker, 29, were allegedly intoxicated on
Smith's balcony when they fired gunshots in the air while trying to end
the party, the lawsuit said.

Before the 2012 home opener last
September, Smith was the passenger in a car during an accident in Santa
Clara County in which the driver swerved to avoid hitting a deer. Smith
sustained a cut beneath his right eyebrow. He apologized and insisted he
had grown up.

Asked about Smith on Monday at Titans
headquarters, Walker said he is getting more attention because of his
status as one of the best in the NFL at his position.

"I pray for him because he is a good kid," Walker said. "He's just making some bad choices now."


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