Aldon Smith has been arrested five times. According to reports from mid-February, he’s under investigation for a domestic incident. And this morning he was in a vehicle that struck an undercover police vehicle in SoMa. It doesn’t appear that anyone was too badly hurt (two of the three SFPD officers in the vehicle were taken to the hospital with injuries that weren’t life-threatening), and Smith was detained for public intoxication and later released.
The driver of the vehicle, a 25-year-old woman (Smith’s girlfriend, according to NBC News), was arrested for suspicion of DUI after the crash, which happened near 8:30. In the morning. NBC also reported that Smith left the station at 1:30 smelling of alcohol, and one has to wonder after watching this video if that was the only substance in his bloodstream.
His career is over. The NFL didn’t seem like they wanted to reinstate him for 2017, even after he was suspended for the entire 2016 season. If the domestic incident wasn’t enough, this will prevent him from playing in the league again.
Even if the NFL somehow decided to let him back in — after showing no such leniency in the past — his talent has already wasted away. The Raiders hoped he’d be a good bookend partner for Khalil Mack, but objective observers (as opposed to the fantasy realmers, who were certain that Smith would become a double-digit sack guy … once he was freed by that meanie Roger Goodell) know that Aldon Smith stopped being great when Justin Smith stopped being great.
But that can’t be the entire story. Because it wasn’t like every outside linebacker turned into Lawrence Taylor once they played alongside Justin Smith. Peak Aldon was a real thing. It happened. We all remember the home game against the Bears, when he looked like the most fearsome defensive player on the planet. Losing Justin and his ability to digest double teams hurt, but perhaps even a bigger detriment to Aldon’s game was his partying. Those late nights and early mornings will catch up with anyone eventually, even an enormous pro athlete in his mid-20s.
After five arrests and multiple assorted incidents (including today’s), it’s not just his professional career that’s in jeopardy. Smith has a substance abuse problem, but there are levels to the illness. Some people drink themselves to sleep every night and bother no one, other than friends or family members who want a better life for their loved one. Smith has shown a pattern of absurdly reckless behavior.
He crashed his vehicle into a tree in someone’s yard in San Jose, AFTER partying throughout the night in San Francisco. Once again this was a crash that occurred in the morning, this time in an area where children walk to school. He was facing two civil lawsuits at the time.
Smith was never charged, but he was booked for making a false report of a bomb threat … at LAX.
He’s been arrested three times for suspicion of DUI.
Someone shot a video showing a guy holding a blunt, saying he was Aldon Smith off camera. For whatever reason, the clip was posted on Periscope. It was never proven that Smith’s hand was the one on camera.
It’s tremendously sad (duh), and not because the NFL, or the 49ers, or even the Raiders, had to lose a once-spectacular pass rusher too soon. Smith does self-destructive things and hangs out with the wrong crowd, but by all accounts he was a good teammate (that is, when he wasn’t showing up to practice hungover after running into a tree — I’ll never forget the scene that afternoon in Santa Clara after Jim Harbaugh made him sweat it all out). He also seemed to be an artistic person with off-the-field interests like acting.
He’s heading down the same path as Lamar Odom, another tremendous talent who seems destined to leave this world too soon unless drastic changes occur. Odom is beloved by so many in the NBA, and his life story is marked with so many terrible tragedies that we know exactly why his slide is taking place. We don’t have that knowledge about Smith, but from the looks of his actions and his demeanor in that video, he seems to be in agonizing pain.
No one chooses to throw away multiple chances to become the Defensive Player of the Year and waste millions of potential income for a laugh. He may think he’s having fun and can handle whatever he’s doing, and that he’s just unlucky. But this is clearly far more serious, partly because the grip of whatever holds him back is too strong and has erased his capacity for self-reflection and preservation. Hopefully that changes before it’s too late.