San Francisco 49ers

November 2, 2013

Leading Off: Should the 49ers allow Smith to play?

Linebacker Aldon Smith is back on the 49ers' 53-man roster after a reported stint at an inpatient facility for substance abuse.

49ers with Matt Barrows

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Linebacker Aldon Smith is back on the 49ers' 53-man roster after a reported stint at an inpatient facility for substance abuse.

That means he can practice next week when the 49ers return from their bye – and play in the next game, Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers.

But should he?

Smith's troubles have been well-documented – the DUI and weapons charges are just the latest and most serious – but he reportedly entered rehab voluntarily (we assume at the team's urging), publicly acknowledging he needed help.

Only Smith, and maybe the professionals involved with his treatment, know the depth of his problems.

Is he an alcoholic and/or addicted to other substances? Can his troubles be traced to the pressures that come with sudden stardom and wealth at such a young age?

Maybe both.

Presumably, Smith wants to play, but that decision likely will be made by 49ers general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh. We wouldn't want to be in their shoes, weighing what might be best for the team vs. what might be best for Smith, the person and not just the football player.

Some would argue Smith is entitled to work, to earn a living – he hasn't had his day(s) in court yet – and that doing something he loves would give him a better chance to battle whatever demons lurk within.

Others could make the case that allowing him to return might lead him back to the lifestyle that at least contributed to his problems – certainly not all young, rich men are intoxicated at 7 a.m. or shoot illegal weapons during parties – and that Smith would benefit from sitting out the rest of the season.

One thing is certain: Smith's success in life is more important than his success on the football field.

And neither you nor I – nor the fans who pay big money for 49ers tickets – have a say in the decision.

What to watch

College football, Miami at Florida State, 5 p.m., Ch. 10: The winner between 7-0 teams keeps BCS title hopes alive.

What to do

College football, Montana at Sacramento State, 1 p.m., and Cal Poly at UC Davis, 4 p.m.: Support your favorite local college – or even both.

Weekend poll

Should 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith play against Carolina on Nov. 10?



Vote above; or go to

Friday's results

What's the best thing about the new era for the Kings?

The new players: 3%

The new Cousins: 18%

Shaq's appeal: 3%

Vivek Ranadive: 75%

Total votes: 239

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