A few days after having been arrested for a DUI and a day or so before he enters a rehabilitation facility, San Francisco 49ers pass rusher extraordinaire Aldon Smith played in Sunday’s 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. After the game, with team CEO Jed York sitting beside him, Smith read a statement admitting that he had personal issues and would be taking time away to address them and set his life on the right path.
Yet even before Smith played what will be his last game in some time for the 49ers, many individuals have jumped on the 49ers for having allowed Smith to play and have admonished them for cutting corners morally by playing him in order to win a football game. To those individuals, I say relax and come down from you ivory towers as this is a case where Aldon Smith playing on Sunday afternoon was not the moral crime you are claiming it is.
For starters, the 49ers could not and would not have been able to suspend Aldon Smith as per the collective bargaining agreement (CBA). With that not an option, the argument will be well they could have de-activated him for the game and still been able to pay him but at least not let him play so as to learn his lesson.
The last potential argument is one that I would entertain and listen to, but in the end, the 49ers as an NFL team are in the business of winning football games. The fact of the matter is that playing Aldon Smith as the 49ers did during Sunday’s loss was not going to make Smith’s upcoming battles and situation any worse or better. While he may not have had the greatest of games, his performance on the field didn’t seem to be the result of his off-field distractions but simply a case of the 49ers just not looking like the team we have gotten used to seeing the past two seasons.
We need to to stop acting and assuming like Smith not playing somehow sends a message of certain things will not be tolerated and accepted. Really, so Smith is not going to end up bettering himself and controlling his addiction issues because the 49ers allowed him to play in one more game before he heads off to rehab? In the words of Chad Johnson aka Chad Ochocinco, child please.
All I know is this: I wish Aldon Smith all the best and hope that his stint in rehab helps him change his ways and improves his life because it is clear he can offer so much. If he is clean, he has a chance of improving his life and himself. He has admitted he has a problem and wants to address it. This is more than anything Von Miller has done or said, and he clearly appears to have his life spiraling out of control slowly. But to take a moral stance of Smith not playing Sunday is a waste, because it wasn’t and didn’t change what lies ahead.