Yesterday evening, Ian Rapoport tweeted that the 49ers will place Aldon Smith on the non-football injury list as soon as today or Tuesday. The placement will happen once he registers at a treatment facility. The team is not required to pay a player on the NFI list, but as we discussed previously, it is possible for a deal to be worked out between the team and player.
Yesterday, Jed York would not go into specifics, other than to say Aldon would be gone an indefinite amount of time. I've re-posted the transcript below, so you can read through it. There has been a ton of discussion about whether or not the team should have deactivated him on Sunday. I was a proponent of that. York discussed the issue of deactivation, stating:
Our opinion was, sitting somebody down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future, that didn't seem like an appropriate punishment. I know it might not sound reasonable, but for Aldon to be able to face the media, face his teammates, and take full responsibility for what he's doing, we felt that was the best situation for Aldon himself, and for the team, and ultimately the community at large. And I realize people might not agree with that decision, but that was the decision that we felt was best.
There is a notion that by playing him yesterday, the 49ers were putting forth a win at all costs mentality. And I believed that prior to this news of Aldon heading to rehab. According to Tim Kawakami, one of the reasons Aldon played on Sunday was that he only missed a total of ten minutes of meeting time. The team deactivated Demarcus Dobbs last season, and if the team was being on the up and up with this, my guess is he missed more time. He was arrested earlier in the morning, but we don't know the details of when he got to the 49ers facility after that, so it's hard to know what was happening.
Getting Aldon Smith into rehab is in the best interests of both him and the team. We don't know all the details, but it seems obvious he has some problems to sort through. From a non-football perspective, he obviously wants to get a handle on that. From a football perspective, if he can get cleaned up, that helps him AND the 49ers.
We don't know how long Aldon will be out, but if the 49ers were only in this to win football games, this strikes me as running counter to that. A cleaned up Aldon helps the team long term, but in a season where it is Super Bowl or bust, losing him for who knows how long clearly runs counter to "Just win, baby."
As Jed York said, there will be plenty of critics about the team's decision to play Aldon yesterday. Most columnists have taken the angle that the 49ers are just in it to win it, and they made a bad decision in letting him play. However, I don't think the deactivation decision is as black and white as many of these columnists would have you believe. Kevin Lynch took that opposing viewpoint that maybe it really was in his best interests to let him play. It will strike some as coddling a superstar, but if the team is working with him to go to rehab, I can see how this might not be the "usual" coddling of a big time athlete.
At this point, all we can hope for is that Aldon figures things out. It can be easy to forget that he is only 23 years old. I am sure plenty of us did plenty of stupid things at 23. He may be rich and famous, but that does not necessarily make his life that much easier when it comes to personal problems. I don't think he deserves a "woe is the rich, famous athlete" sarcastic line, but as Ray McDonald said in Lynch's article, "Humans make mistakes that's what the world has to realize. Everybody is not perfect."
Now we are left to wait for the team and Aldon to figure things out. We'll hear more in the coming days, and then I imagine things will quiet down once Aldon is in rehab. We don't know how long it will last, but that really isn't the important issue. He'll get back on the field when he gets back on the field. For now he just needs to get things sorted out.
"I don't know that there's a right decision in this situation. It was obviously something that was very disappointing to the team and I think in talking with [LB] Aldon [Smith] and knowing what he wants to do, there's not a one-day fix. This is a long-term fix. We support Aldon if Aldon is willing to fight for himself and try to make this right and I will stand here and I will support him and I'll take any shots that anybody wants to direct at the organization, you can direct them to me. And I will support Aldon as long as he's willing to work at this and fight to get better."
Was it your call to let him play today?
"[General Manager] Trent [Baalke] and [Head Coach] Jim [Harbaugh] handled it. They obviously talked to me about it and I think again, under the circumstances, knowing what Aldon wants to do, I think this was the best thing for Aldon. And again, there's no right answer here. We're very fortunate that nobody got hurt, Aldon included and anybody else, and we want to make sure that Aldon is never in a position like this again."
What's the next step for Aldon?
"This is a personal matter and I'm not going to speak about Aldon's personal matters. If he wants to speak about that I will let him have the opportunity to do that in due time."
Would you expect him to be with the team at the Rams game and to play in that game?
How long do you expect him to be gone?
"I don't know. It will be indefinite."
So would it be fair to surmise that he's going to be seeking treatment and counseling and therapy and help?
"Again, that's Aldon's personal issue. But we're going to support him and I believe Aldon wants to tackle this problem and we're going to do everything that we can to help him with this."
Did you have any private discussions with him so that he convinced you that this is the right path?
"As an organization, we've talked to him. Again, we feel like there was no right decision. There was no right way to do it, but this was, in our opinion, the best way to do it. We're going to support Aldon to the fullest as long as he's willing to support himself and work towards making things right."
Is there a timetable for his return?
"There's no timetable."
Can you explain the one-day fix? Why does he play today? Why not have him go do whatever he's going to do starting today?
"That's a personal decision for Aldon."
That's a team decision; he played.
"Yeah, he did play. And again, we thought that was the best decision for Aldon."
Did you think it was the best decision because you wanted to win the game?
"No. We thought it was the best decision for Aldon and for him in the future and for him to make progress and get better."
There was some question about whether you could have deactivated him in this situation, had you chosen to do so. But clearly you could have decided to punish him in some other way; not play him or not start him, even though he was in uniform. What consideration was given to those sorts of things?
"A lot of consideration. And I think that's a very valid question. Our opinion was, sitting somebody down and paying them to sit down when they're going to seek treatment in the future, that didn't seem like an appropriate punishment. I know it might not sound reasonable, but for Aldon to be able to face the media, face his teammates, and take full responsibility for what he's doing, we felt that was the best situation for Aldon himself, and for the team, and ultimately the community at large. And I realize people might not agree with that decision, but that was the decision that we felt was best."
Was this one of the toughest decisions you've had to make as head of this team?
"This was not an easy weekend for us. Again, I'll support our players as long as they're willing to work towards getting better and being better teammates, better members of the community. I believe that Aldon wants to do that and I will support him and I will stand by him as long as that's what he's willing to do."
What potential discipline do you think the NFL might invoke?
"I have no idea. Again, I think Aldon is going to take steps on his own. We're not worried about that. We're not trying to circumvent what the NFL will do. This is about making sure that Aldon has the opportunity to work on something, get better. And he knows that he has our support and hopefully he has everybody's support in something that is going to be very difficult."