San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke made his weekly Friday appearance on 95.7 The Game, and he focused on Aldon Smith's situation (AUDIO). In discussing Aldon's return, Baalke cleared up a few things. Although the 49ers activated Aldon Smith, they actually have a roster exemption for now, meaning they could activate Mario Manningham off the PUP list, and they would not need to release somebody yet.
At this point, this is not a huge issue because the 49ers would have to make some roster moves anyway to clear space for their returning players. For now, Smith is cleared to practice in full, but based on how Baalke described it, he's not technically on the 53-man roster. I'll try and get some clarification on that.
The hosts of the show asked Baalke to elaborate on his interactions with Aldon Smith since his return from rehab. They asked Baalke what differences he sees in Aldon Smith from when he left for rehab to where he is now:
"Well, I think there's a lot of things that are very personal, that him and I have talked about, but he's in a better place. I think he's more comfortable with where he's at and who he is as an individual, as a man, as a young man trying to figure out life. And we all try to do that. I don't think we ever stop. I'm 49 years old and I'm still trying to figure it out. So you can only imagine what a 23-year old is going through, and so we shared a good visit. We had a lot of things to talk about obviously, when you haven't seen someone for the length of time that we haven't seen Aldon. But, I think his mind is clear, he's very positive, and he understands that this is a process and he's willing to put the time in to make things happen."
They followed up with a question about where Aldon is physically, and where he is compared to necessary game shape:
"Well, I can't answer that. We haven't had any practices, and he's been in, he's worked out a couple times, but that's something we'll have to gauge as we get back on to the practice field and start going. He looks good. Physically, he's been able to keep up with some things. But, he's been away from the game for 30 days, so we'll have to see where he's at when he gets on the field."
Baalke emphasized that the team has a plan in place, but the key was that they were taking things day-to-day in terms of assessing when Aldon Smith will be ready to return to action. He pointed out that Aldon still looked good physically, but there remain questions of stamina and general rust.
The 49ers do not have formal practice again until early next week, so it will be interesting to see if three practices is enough to get him ready to go. He could be in great shape, but the physicality of football as opposed to just running sprints or working out is something worth following when Aldon gets back into games.