Three strikes, and you’re out, unless you’re a great player. Sometimes the fourth strike is still enough for the athlete to keep his or her job. For the San Francisco 49ers, fifth strike finally broke their back.
Just minutes ago, a day after star defensive end Aldon Smith was arrested for a DUI, hit and run and vandalism, the 49ers released him. Smith’s latest offense was his fourth in just three years.
Smith’s tumult began in January 2012,when he was first suspected of DUI. The charge was later reduced to reckless driving, but the trouble didn’t stop there. A few months later, in June, he suffered bodily injury. During a party in his own home, he was stabbed, shots were fired, and multiple people suffered injuries. Smith was arrested for a trio of felony weapons, all of which were eventually reduced.
Two strikes were more than enough to grab the attention of various fans, but Smith still could not keep himself out of trouble. A little over a year later, Smith had to miss five games due to rehab, which he had to enter following yet another arrest due to a DUI charge.
In April 2014, the 25-year old found himself in hot water again, after putting forth a bomb threat at LAX airport in Los Angeles. No charges were filed, but another red flag had risen on Smith’s resume.
The following August, the NFL hammered Smith with a nine game suspension, as a result of his 2013 DUI arrest, citing violation of the league’s personal-conduct and substance-abuse policies.
Surely, this would be enough for the 49ers to let him go. Granted, he had developed into one of the league’s best pass rushers, garnering more sacks in his first two years than any player in NFL history. Still, enough had to be enough.
Apparently, the 49ers didn’t see it that way. In fact, earlier this week, the team’s general manager, Trent Baalke, claimed that the team was intent on resigning the soon-to-be free agent. But today, all that changed, following his latest off-field incident.
The team addressed the media even before consulting with all the players. Head coach Jim Tomsula put forth an emotional press conference, emphasizing that the team would support him, and that anyone who was dealing with substance abuse issues should get help. The bottom line is, the team finally had to let him go.
The 25-year-old’s departure is just the latest addition to an abysmal offseason for the 49ers. They began with letting their coach, Jim Harbaugh, go right after the season ended. Since then, they’ve had key pieces leave via free agency, and saw two of their best defensive players, cornerstone linebacker Patrick Willis, as well as up and coming rising star Chris Borland, retire from the league. With Smith’s release, the team only has two remaining starters from it’s 2012-2013 Super Bowl runner-up team.
A season that was already looking bleak for the team just got a lot bleaker, but at least they finally did the right thing.