The NFL suspended San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Clark Haggans for three games without pay for violating the league’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension was handed down on Tuesday and begins immediately. He will be able to return to the team on Monday, October 8.
The suspension was not a surprise for Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke. Haggans was signed on September 3 after outside linebacker Parys Haralson was placed on the injured reserve list for the season with torn triceps. At the time of his signing, Harbaugh and Baalke knew a suspension was possible for a DUI arrest in 2011. Haggans was active for the first two games of the season as the backups to Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, but he did not see any action on the field.
The suspension should not impact the 49ers defense too much as the team was prepared for the possibility of losing him and it is only for three games. The important thing is the starters at outside linebacker have remained healthy and productive through two games. If either Smith or Brooks go down with an injury over the next three games, the 49ers will be in a bad spot to find an adequate replacement.
The Niners defense has been hurting at OLB with Haralson out for the season. Haralson was a starter last season when the 49ers only went with three OLB’s on the roster. That gambled worked as Haralson, Smith and Brooks all made it through the season without an injury. Harbaugh and Baalke elected to go with this strategy again this season and it could come back to bite them.
Eric Bakhtiari was re-signed by the 49ers on Wednesday after being cut from the roster on August 31 to replace Haggans. He led the 49ers during the preseason with 2.5 sacks and had 14 tackles which ranked second on the team. The concern with Bakhtiari is he has only appeared in three games since 2008. With the exception of 2009-2010, when he appeared in three games for the Titians, he has been on the practice squad of six different teams. He has been released nine times since 2008.
The only option on the 49ers practice squad at OLB is seventh-round pick Cam Johnson. However, Johnson had a knee operation in June and did not play in the first three preseason games. With the 49ers so thin at outside linebacker, staying healthy is a top priority for Smith and Brooks over the next three games while Haggans is suspended. Otherwise, the 49ers defense might finally have a weakness for opposing offenses to take advantage of.
Aldon Smith in Car Accident Last Friday
Can anything slow down outside linebacker Aldon Smith? First, Smith was stabbed at his own house party a month before training camp this offseason. He showed up at training camp looking like the incident did not happen. His play in the preseason and first two regular-season games also showed he was feeling no side effects from the June incident. Now, there is news he was involved in a car crash the Friday before he recorded seven tackles and two sacks in the win over the Lions. It has been reported he was a passenger in a car that swerved to miss a deer which ended up hitting a tree on a dirt embankment on the side of the road. The one-car accident happened in San Jose and reportedly did not involve alcohol. The driver did suffer a broken back however the only injury to Smith was a gash above his right eye that required stitches.
How many lives has Aldon Smith used now? Not only did he have Friday’s car accident and June’s stabbing incident, but he was also arrested in January for a DUI arrest in Miami Beach, Florida. He was able to walk away from all three bad events. This is one lucky man.
Here was Smith comments on the accident,
It’s life. You can sit here and make it what you want. But really, it’s life. I’m in a good spot right now. Being in something like that (the accident), and then being able to go out and have fun and do something that I love doing – it was a relief to be able to get away from everything.