On Friday, the NFL suspended 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith for the first nine games of the 2014 season. It's a huge blow for a defense that will also be without linebacker NaVorro Bowman for two months, and a team that plays in the NFL's toughest division.
On Saturday, the NFLPA released a statement on Smith's behalf.
"I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the entire 49ers organization and 49ers fans for not being able to contribute on the field for the next several weeks. Over the last year, I have learned a lot and I'm working hard to grow from my experiences. I want to thank my family and friends, my teammates, my union and the 49ers for supporting me during this process. I will be at work daily to participate in all permitted work activities, and to support my teammates, just as they have supported me.”
Smith's on-field exploits have been marred by off-field issues for much of his three-year career. His suspension stems from violations to both the substance-abuse policy and the personal conduct policy.
"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement Friday. "Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."
Smith also missed five games in 2013 after entering rehab following a DUI arrest.