San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke met with the media Friday morning prior to the team's local Pro Day, and it is not at all surprising the first questions were about Aldon Smith. He was first asked if the team would pick up the option, and his response was that it was being discussed internally. He was asked about the situation from all different angles, but I think this response provided the best insight on the matter. You can read all his comments in Cam Inman's transcript:
What do you do with Aldon right now?
"I'm a firm believer in the humanistic approach to everything. You continue to work, just like you would with any family member. We're a family. You just don't open the door and toss people out of it. You continue to work - until they leave you no choice. That's what we'll continue to do. We're going to continue to work with him, we're going to continue to find ways to support - not defend. We can not defend the actions of others. All we can do is support, create an environment conducive to improving in the areas you need to improve in. As long as he's a 49er, we intend to do just that."
Baalke repeatedly stated that the team cannot defend his actions, but they can support, mentor, and teach him, and from that, expect him to learn the error of his ways and get his life straightened out. After the roundtable with the media, 49ers.com got some video of a few questions. He said again they want to see Aldon with the team for the foreseeable future, but as his comments suggest, the team is not going to put up with nonsense forever. There is a breaking point, but in the meantime, they will continue to work with Aldon to help him straighten out his life and start making good decisions.
The 49ers have until May 3 to decide on his option. People continue to report sources say the 49ers are leaning against picking it up. The decision will be impacted by how his Santa Clara court case is resolved. He has a court date April 29, although it remains to be seen if that will end up being more than just a discovery hearing. It comes down to how plea negotiations are going. I disagree with the apparently conventional media wisdom that the team is leaning against picking up the option. I think the team is trying to learn more about his court case before making a final decision.
If they're hoping Aldon can get his head on straight and start making good decisions, I'm not sure they can necessarily make a 100 percent determination on that between now and May 3. It's been less than a month since the LAX incident, and it's tough to see lives getting turned around that quickly. But Baalke's comments do indicate they feel there is some positive momentum. Take this however you want:
Speaking with Aldon, where do you feel he is in his mind?
"Growing. Starting to understand. Starting to realize the importance of his own accountability. That's a pretty fair representation of where he's at."
You say only starting. You'd think after last season, that process would be well on its way?
"I think Aldon has made a lot of very good strides in a lot of aspects. He continues to work at it everyday, just like I do, just like everybody else. Try to become a little better person every day. Try to become a little better at your craft every day. Sometimes you hit a speed bump. Repeat offenders, when it becomes repetitive, it certainly become a concern. Once again, you continue to work. No different than what you do with your craft, I do with my craft. We've all been there. You continue to work to get better."
It's going to be a long process. Aldon has plenty of issues to sort through and straighten out. Even if he avoids jail time, and deals with only a modest NFL suspension, he will be figuring out his issues for the foreseeable future. It does not mean he can't work around them and be a positive contributor to this football team, but it's not like they just go away if he is not getting in trouble moving forward. We can only hope for the best for him, and hope that he recognizes what he needs to do to stay on the straight and narrow.