San Francisco 49ers

Aldon Smith was “exceptional” during suspension, but it won’t be reduced

By now it appears Aldon Smith's suspension won't be reduced by one, two or any games. Last week, Rams coach Jeff Fisher made it clear that any opponent would need to know if a player was coming off the suspended list well in advance of that game. We're now beyond that point, and it seems evident that Smith's nine-game suspension will indeed be nine games.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported as much on Tuesday. That puts Smith on his original schedule to play in the Nov. 16 game against the Giants in New York.

The suspension was negotiated between the league and the player's union. Both team officials and Smith's camp had the impression that through good behavior the suspension could have been reduced by up to two games.

Smith's agent, Doug Hendrickson, wrote via Twitter this evening that Smith has fulfilled his end of the bargain. “Let me be very clear! @AldonSmith complied with EVERY guideline and all rules,” Hendrickson wrote. “Was exceptional in the community. More to come.”

Given the current climate surrounding, and scrutiny of, league discipline, the NFL's decision makers may not have thought it wise to cut Smith's punishment, which was for a DUI conviction and for possessing weapons that are illegal in California.

Meanwhile, another outside linebacker, Dan Skuta, may not be available Sunday in New Orleans after spraining his ankle against the Rams. That would leave Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch and Corey Lemonier, whose role has been reduced to special teams, as the only healthy outside linebackers for the game.

Smith missed five games last year after entering an alcohol rehabilitation facility, which followed his DUI. He played just 12 snaps in his first game back. Smith has been allowed to work out at the team facility during his current suspension and he likely is in better shape – and in a better place – than he was a year ago.

Still, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who also is Smith's position coach, will monitor Smith and gauge his role based on those observations. A situation in which Skuta or Lemonier plays base downs and Smith comes in on passing situations might be a smart way to work the team's top pass rusher back into form.

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