The news that Aldon Smith had been activated off the NFI list caught folks a little by surprise earlier Thursday afternoon. Activation was expected eventually, but this sort of popped up out of nowhere.
We've seen plenty of discussion on the activation, and Matt Maiocco provided a bit of a bow on why Aldon was activated today:
NFL: The 49ers had to activate Aldon Smith upon his release from treatment as part of the NFI rule that allows him to return this season.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) November 1, 2013
The team received a specific exemption to place Smith on the NFI list. It makes sense that once he was out of his in-patient rehab, the team would have to remove him from the NFI list. That also explains yesterday's roster move to waive wide receiver Marlon Moore. The team still has to make moves for Mario Manningham and Eric Wright.
Aldon Smith entered rehab shortly after the 49ers Week 3 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. We never had a formal timeline, but Ruthless Sports Guy had a great breakdown of rehab over at BayAreaSportsGuy.com. Kyle worked briefly as an assistant a Bay Area drug rehab center, so he has some base of knowledge with which to discuss the topic. We will likely never get the full specifics of Aldon's situation, but Kyle's article is a good place to start.
Aldon ended up spending about a month in rehab, and appears set to head back into action when the 49ers get back from their bye next week. We don't know what kind of shape he is in coming out of rehab. He'll get a week and a half to get ready for the Panthers. The 49ers have their options and very well could decide to work him in on spot duty initially. There are a lot of factors in play here.