11:14am: The Chiefs issued their own statement confirming the three-game suspension for Smith, adding that they “respect and support the league’s decision in this matter and will have no further comment on the situation.”
8:52am: The NFL has suspended Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith for three games to open the 2015 regular season, a source tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The penalty comes as a result of Smith pleading guilty in March to driving under the influence, for which he received two years probation.
The league’s new drug policy, which was jointly approved by the NFL and the NFLPA last September, calls for a two-game ban to be levied upon a player after a “conviction or plea agreement for violations of law involving alcohol and driving.” However, the policy also allows for longer suspensions in the case of “aggravating circumstances,” such as property damage — so the fact that Smith allegedly drove into a light pole could have given the league the leeway to tack on an extra game.
Entering the season without Smith may not have a huge impact on the Chiefs in Week 1, when they’ll face either Brian Hoyer or Ryan Mallett in Houston. But the team will certainly miss its standout cornerback in its next two games, as Kansas City plays Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 2, then Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Week 3.
Smith, who is entering the final year of a three-year deal with the Chiefs, had been set to earn a base salary of $4.25MM, so a three-week suspension will cost him $750K. The 28-year-old has been a solid investment for Kansas City so far, having ranked as the league’s fifth-best cornerback in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Per PFF’s data, Smith allowed a 57.0% completion rate on passes thrown into his coverage, and didn’t commit a single penalty all season.