I'd say we've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that 49ers rookies report to training camp three weeks from today. The bad news is that leaves three very long weeks for stupid stuff to go down. The month and a half between the end of OTAs and the start of training camp is arguably the scariest part of the offseason. While players have the opportunity to get ready for camp and study their playbook during this stretch, there is stil likely to be a whole lot of free time for people to get into a little mischief.
I didn't have time to weigh in on the Aldon Smith mess this weekend as I was actually at a house party of my own. Due to the midweek Fourth of July, some friends decided to have their annual holiday party the weekend before. Although it didn't quite reach the 100+ at Aldon's party, the party I was at had probably 60+ folks come through with 30-40 around the house at one time. Minus a few relationship fights (the dramatic couples always seem to get into it at parties), it was an otherwise fun evening with no police involved.
I had a chance to read through the comments in the two Aldon posts (one, two) and the reactions are mixed, but all understandable. Some folks pointed out how the Lions get a lot of crap for their offseason issues, but 49ers fans are quick to defend Aldon. While Aldon does not seem like a knucklehead, it is still important that he be aware of his surroundings and the people with which he associates.
Early reports indicate Aldon was stabbed with a pocket-knife while trying to break up a fight. He was treated and released from the hospital, so injury-wise, this does not seem like a huge deal. However, even if Aldon was simply the guy trying to do the right thing, it seems like he needs to be a bit more aware of what's going on.
In reality, it's not particularly fair to make judgements about his character. However, when you have two incidents with the law in one offseason, even if entirely unrelated, question marks will be raised. It is true that he is 22, which is an age where most of us do incredibly stupid things. However, you could make the argument he has an increased responsibility because of the position he has reached in life.
Being a millionaire at such a young age does not make him a better person or more valuable in the world (in a non-financial sense), but it does raise his profile and create added responsibilities. When I was 22 I was working as a barback at the ESPNZone in Las Vegas. The extent of my responsibility was paying rent and making sure there was enough money for modest gambling and booze.
Aldon Smith has the privilege of playing in the NFL and being in a situation to set up himself and his family for a long time to come. However, with that privilege comes certain responsibilities. It can be difficult when certain characters sidle up to him as is often the case for any rich individual, but he will need to be keenly aware of what can go down when things get out of hand.
I don't believe Aldon Smith had the opportunity to attend a rookie symposium due to last year's lockout. Would that have made a difference in how this offseason has gone? I don't really know. A few days hearing some cautionary tales will help some folks, and won't matter for others. Ideally, the 49ers front office and his teammates will sit down with Aldon in the coming weeks and see what they can do to help keep him focused on football.
Keena Turner works for the 49ers as Vice President of Football Affairs. In this role, Turner "oversees the team’s Player Engagement Program, aimed at optimizing and revolutionizing the personal and professional growth of players through continuous guidance and support during and beyond their NFL experience." This seems as good a time as any to optimize Aldon's personal growth.
In the meantime, we get to wait on pins and needles for the next three weeks to finish up.