The San Francisco 49ers announced Aldon Smith's release on Friday following his arrest for suspicion of DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism. Jim Tomsula spoke to the media to address the topic, and was up at the podium by himself. A year prior, Trent Baalke had handled the press conference announcing Ray McDonald's release, so it was a little odd not to see him up there.
Turns out he had a potentially good reason. Baalke was actually spending time with Aldon Smith, described as "hours". It sounds like Smith had already been informed he would be released earlier in the day, and this was a matter of Baalke making sure, "he was in a place where he's going to be OK."
I wish it had not come to this, but I still find the whole situation really fascinating. Until recently, I had always viewed the Baalke-Aldon dynamic as a bit of a selfish one. I figured it was a football thing, and it had to do with Smith's talent level as much as anything else. Baalke said this on Friday:
This isn't about football. Everyone wants to make this about football. This has nothing to do with football right now. It has everything to do with a human being and a quality, quality person. But he's made some mistakes.
Aldon Smith is no longer a member of the San Francisco 49ers, and his immediate football future is in doubt pending his current legal issues. But after Jim Tomsula said Smith will not have to walk this path alone, Trent Baalke seemed to back that up on Friday. So maybe this is in fact about more than football. I really have no idea because it is such a complicated situation. Reports over the last year and a half are that Trent Baalke took a particular interest in Aldon Smith and grew close to him. It was easy to just point to his all-time potential as a pass rusher, and that could still be something to consider, but Baalke's time with Smith was certainly something.
Some people have asked whether or not the 49ers would consider bringing Aldon Smith back once he gets through league discipline, and if he gets things turned around. Baalke addressed that when asked by Matt Maiocco:
"That's something I don't even want to speculate at this time," Baalke said. "The immediate concern is for him and his well-being. We'll continue to communicate with him. From an organizational standpoint, we do anything to help him."
That is well off into the future. Smith is facing a potential suspension that could be upwards of a season in length. His football future is on hold for the moment, but from what appears to be a completely non-football perspective, it is nice to see Trent Baalke is not completely walking away from Smith. This story would appear to be far from over.