San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said on Friday that he is optimistic Aldon Smith can return with the team soon from rehab, according to Cam Inman. The Pro Bowl outside linebacker has left the team on indefinite suspension since playing in Week 3 and being arrested for a DUI the Friday before the game.
"Our ultimate goal is to help Aldon get back to a place where he feels very comfortable and can move forward in a positive manner," Baalke said. "We’re obviously hopeful [for a return after the bye]. At the same time, we’re prepared for either outcome.”
Baalke said Smith would need to show significant progress in order to return to the playing field. The team general manager praised the coaching staff for handling several injuries and adversity to have the 49ers where they are at this point in the season.
Several players are positioned to return after the bye week, including DE Tank Carradine, CB Eric Wright and WR Mario Manningham. The latter will come back from the PUP, while Wright and Carradine were on the non-football injury list for the entire year. Michael Crabtree is also expected to return in late November.
"We're not interested in trading LaMichael," Baalke said in an interview. "[He is] a key player."
James was the second-round pick of the 49ers' 2012 NFL Draft class. Despite being drafted so high, James didn't make his NFL debut until Week 14, when Kendall Hunter tore his Achilles tendon. Baalke said there will be a time when the 49ers will want to utilize James similar to how he was used last year late in the season. He contributed on both kickoffs and as a running back in December and the postseason last year.
Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman have previously defended the second-year running back, saying there is a plan and he isn't "insurance" despite what his tweet on social media said. However, James has been a healthy scratch in the last two games, indicating that he won't see playing time soon.
"A lot of things can happen in this sport, and I know this," Baalke said. "I trust the coaches to make the right decisions."
With the trade deadline four days away, the general manager didn't dismiss the possibility of a move happening. However, it seems doubtful something could happen with three players likely to return to the 53-man roster in one week.