10:53am: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Niners believe they’ll be without Smith for six games, or perhaps fewer than that. The team is hoping for a four-game ban, says Rapoport.
8:30am: As we heard last night, 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell this week to discuss Smith’s multiple legal run-ins, including DUI and gun charges. Following that meeting, it should be just a matter of time before the league announces a suspension for the linebacker to kick off the season, and according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (Twitter link), the team is bracing for a ban that covers six to eight games.
Maiocco notes that the team isn’t certain of the NFL’s verdict yet, so Smith’s penalty may ultimately not be quite so harsh — in fact, San Francisco may be preparing for the worst possible scenario so as not to be caught off guard in the event of a lengthy suspension. However, Goodell and the league figure to be under scrutiny after receiving criticism for a Ray Rice suspension that was viewed as too light, so it’s unlikely that the commish would be overly lenient on Smith, particularly since the 24-year-old has repeatedly violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
The Niners exercised Smith’s fifth-year option for 2015 earlier in the offseason, suggesting that the club has confidence he can stay out of trouble in the future. Still, that salary isn’t yet fully guaranteed, so the 2014 season represents an audition of sorts for the talented pass rusher — if he performs well again on the field and doesn’t have any off-field issues, he’ll be a strong candidate for an extension in 2015. On the other hand, if he has more troubles with the law, Smith may not have a long-term future in San Francisco.