There were many doubts surrounding Aldon Smith when the San Francisco 49ers drafted him out of Missouri in 2011, especially his youth, being only a redshirt sophomore when he declared for the draft, and the immaturity that comes with it. Experts also were concerned about a lack of production in college, only seeing one year as a starter, but his talent has silenced all doubt in that area, notching 33.5 sacks in his first two seasons.
This season however, Smith’s immaturity has caused him to miss five games, spending time in a rehab facility to deal with his alcohol issues.
Smith’s problem is a common one. Many players, especially ones as young as Smith, have difficulty adjusting to the money and fame that comes with being a premier NFL player. Many come from harsh background that has indoctrinated them into a spend-first, right-now mentality that focuses on instant gratification both financially and health-wise, rather than saving money and making healthy choices that will have a positive impact on the future. Smith seems to have gotten over his issues for now, and he will return to the field Sunday to face the Carolina Panthers at home.
Smith’s return causes a conundrum for the Panthers. Before Smith departed, he was a force to be reckoned with, and stopping him would be the top priority for the Panthers had he not missed time. Now that he is returning in limited role, the Panthers must decide how they will prepare for him. The 49ers have made it clear the Smith won’t see time in running situations due to conditioning concerns, so the Panthers will concentrate on keeping him away from Cam Newton.
It’s a mystery however, as to how much of an impact Smith will make. Five weeks of inactivity can have a huge effect on a player’s body, which could work to the Panthers advantage, but if he’s anything close to the old Aldon Smith, then the Panthers are in trouble.