San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended by the NFL for nine games without pay to start the season, the league announced Friday, in time for the team to assemble its roster ahead of Saturday's 1 p.m. deadline to trim from 75 to 53.
Smith was suspended for violating NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse and the league’s Personal Conduct Policy, per the announcement from the league.
"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."
Smith will be eligible to return for the team's game against the Giants Nov. 16. According to multiple reports, the appeal process has already concluded and the nine-game suspension is final.
Smith has dealt with a string of run-ins with the law over the last two years, giving him "repeat offender" status, including an arrest at Los Angeles International Airport for allegedly issuing a false bomb threat at a security checkpoint April 13. The Los Angeles District Attorney's office indicated Smith would not be charged with a felony in that case.
That incident came 38 days before Smith pleaded "no contest" to three felony weapons charges and two misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence in a Santa Clara Superior Court May 21. He was sentenced in July to 11 days on a sheriff's work crew after his gun charges were reduced to misdemeanors. Smith will also be required to complete 235 hours of community service and serve three years probation.
Smith was arrested for an apparent DUI in September two days before the team's Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which Smith played all 72 defensive snaps. Authorities found Smith behind the wheel of a car that had crashed into a tree and said his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
Immediately following the game, he left the 49ers to attend an in-patient drug and alcohol treatment facility. The team went 5-0 in his absence before he returned following the bye week to play 12 snaps in Week 10's loss to the Carolina Panthers.
The weapons charges stem from a party held at Smith's house in June 2012 when a fight broke out. Authorities found three assault rifles at the home after responding to a complaint about the event.
The 49ers will also enter the season without another former All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who will start the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, forcing him out of at least the first six games of the regular season.
Behind Smith, San Francisco has second-year player Corey Lemonier, sixth-year player Dan Skuta and rookie fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch on the depth chart. Skuta and Lemonier combined to fill in admirably during Smith's five-game absence in 2013, making 16 tackles and a sack. According to Pro Football Focus, Lemonier, who was used almost exclusively in pass-rushing situations, had 14 quarterback hurries during Smith's time away. Lynch and Lemonier have impressed during the preseason.
Smith has been one of the league's most dominant outside linebackers since getting drafted seventh-overall in 2011, making 42 sacks and 110 tackles in 43 career games.
UPDATE: Aug. 30, 9:35 a.m.
In a statement released through the NFL Players Association on Saturday, Smith said: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49ers organization and 49ers fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks. Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I'm working hard to grow from my experiences.
"I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process. I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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