San Francisco 49ers‘ GM Trent Baalke opened up Friday about embattled outside linebacker Aldon Smith. Smith, who has a potential misdemeanor charge pending in LA and two court dates in Santa Clara coming up, has been the subject of many rumors and much guessing. The conventional wisdom outside of the 49ers organization, especially thanks to an Adam Schefter report, is that the 49ers will not pick up Smith’s option for 2015–and that 2014 might be a no-go for Smith as far as seeing the field.
Smith, however, has been in attendance for the optional offseason workouts this week, signaling a willingness by the 49ers organization to continue helping him overcome his problems. As Baalke said,
We’re a family. You don’t just open a door and toss people out of it.
This has been the train of thought behind the 49ers’ actions regarding Smith since he came into the league. The 49ers received a lot of flak for letting Aldon play shortly after being arrested for a DUI, but the organization has been consistent in that, first and foremost, they care about Smith as an individual. This was the case when they paid him throughout his stint in rehab, and it is still the case today. Said Baalke:
[Aldon Smith] has made mistakes, there’s no question about it . . . He’s the only one now that can get himself out of it . . . he’s got to start making better decisions, and we expect him to do that.
Some have argued that Smith’s repetitive run-ins with authorities are a sign that the 49ers’ course of action has not worked. As Baalke notes, it has worked “for the majority” and Smith is an aberration. Furthermore, as I noted recently, the LAX incident has little in common with Smith’s earlier transgressions. Everyone who has flown has been frustrated with TSA agents at some point or another.
Baalke was also asked if he hoped Smith would be back with the 49ers in 2015. His response:
And in 2016 and 2017 and 2018 … You don’t just open the door and toss people out.
Baalke is definitely supportive of his team. For better or worse, the 49ers are supportive of Aldon Smith. Every indication, as Greg Bedard of The MMQB notes, is that they care more about the person than the player–especially right now. This is a healthy way to run an organization and a large group of personnel. There will always be issues. Be supportive and help the player figure it out. You cannot solve a problem for someone, but you can do all you can to help. The 49ers will continue to do just that.