The 49ers will welcome back a former All-Pro to their lineup this week, as the NFL officially announced today that linebacker Aldon Smith has been reinstated from his suspension. According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com (via Twitter), Smith will be on the field for the Niners’ walk-through today.
Smith, 25, is returning from a nine-game suspension for violating the league’s policies for substances of abuse and personal conduct. While there were rumblings that the ban could be reduced by a game or two due to good behavior, Smith ultimately ended up serving the full nine-game penalty. NFLPA executive VP George Atallah indicated this week that the linebacker had “fulfilled all of his obligations to be considered to return from his suspension early,” but it simply didn’t happen.
In any case, the Niners will be happy to welcome back a player who is two years removed from a season in which he racked up 19.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. For now, San Francisco doesn’t have to make a corresponding roster move to accommodate Smith — the team will have a roster exemption for him until next Monday. However, if the club intends to activate him for this Sunday’s game against the Giants, it will need to cut a player to do so.
I cited Smith and fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman as returning players who could have an impact down the stretch for the Niners as the team attempts to earn a postseason berth. Bowman, who is recovering from a significant knee injury, is on track to begin practicing soon.