It's hard to deny Aldon Smith's talent -- the 2011 first-round pick has 42 sacks in 43 games -- but the 49ers have grown weary of the ever-growing list of off-field incidents. The latest came last Sunday when the linebacker was arrested and charged with a false report of a bomb threat. He also has two previous DUI arrests, the last coming in September.
Through it all, the 49ers have supported Smith -- but that could be changing.
Several sources involved with the team's decision making tell MercuryNews.com's Tim Kawakami that not only has Smith lost the benefit of the doubt, he likely won't play for the 49ers in 2014.
There's still a lot to sort through: any criminal charges that come from the latest arrest, as well as the NFL sanctions that will almost certainly follow. But the bottom line seems to be that Smith's inability to stay out of trouble might have finally caught up with him.
Kawakami writes that this doesn't mean the 49ers will release Smith anytime soon, "But there is a weariness and frustration over Smith's behavior that I've never heard involving any recent 49ers player. Until this week.
"And this is coming from people with the team who defended Smith full-tilt after his DUI arrest last September and emphasized back then that he voluntarily was seeking help, which was a clear sign that he was ready to address his problems," Kawakami continued. "It's a very, very different tone now. Starkly different. ...
"I'm also told that the weariness and frustration is mostly focused on Smith, and that team management supports Colin Kaepernick through the 'suspicious incident' that Miami police are still investigating and that the 49ers are not planning to release [Chris] Culliver despite his felony and misdemeanor hit-and-run charges recently."
For now, Kawakami writes, the 49ers will let the legal process play out. Smith is set to have a hearing on April 29 before a Santa Clara judge. And while this isn't solely about Sunday's arrest at LAX, Smith's pattern of behavior is a problem.
We could get some sense of just how committed the 49ers are to Smith's future as soon as early next month. The team faces a May 3 deadline to pick up the $9.75 million option for 2015. Kawakami hears the team isn't likely to do it, which means that Smith could be headed for free agency next March -- if not sooner.