After months of speculation, the NFL has decided to hit linebacker Aldon Smith with a substantial suspension for the upcoming 2014 NFL regular season, according to Darin Gantt of Pro Football Talk on August 29:
The NFL announced that 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith was suspended for nine games for violating the NFL’s policies on substance abuse and personal conduct.
ESPN's Paul Gutierrez also confirms Smith's suspension on Friday:
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been suspended for the first nine games of the season for violating the NFL's personal conduct and substance abuse policies.
Smith is a repeat offender and was made an example of with this lengthy suspension. In the aftermath of the Ray Rice fiasco, the league is making a point of it not to get it wrong moving forward in terms of penalizing players for infractions.
Smith's nine-game suspension was the result of two infractions combined. Smith will miss the first four games for violating the substance abuse policy and five for violating the personal conduct policy.
Losing Smith for the majority of the regular season will be a major blow for the 49ers defensively. Although San Francisco has held their own without Smith in the past, not having the All-Pro will prove costly regardless.
As for Smith's future in San Francisco, one can only assume that the team could simply part ways with the 24-year-old if he continues to be a problem off the field. Smith's talent is undeniable as he is arguably one of the best linebackers in the league today, but the persistent off-the-field problems could threat a long-term future in the NFL.