While Aldon Smith's DUI arrest Friday morning was hardly his first brush with the law, the NFL has no plans to issue any discipline at this point, sources said, following the normal protocol of waiting for the adjudication process to play out.
Had the 49ers handed down any discipline to Smith, selected seventh overall by San Francisco in 2011, the league would have supported them in doing so, but Smith is set to play Sunday against the Colts.
It is virtually certain Smith will be facing a suspension at some point, but given the timing of this arrest and the amount of time it generally takes for these matters to be resolved in the legal system, the odds of Smith sitting out any time soon are remote. As the league's policy on alcohol-related offenses states: “Discipline for a second, or subsequent offense is likely to be a suspension, the duration of which may escalate for repeat offenses.” For instance, receiver Vincent Jackson was suspended for three games after twice pleading guilty to DUI charges.
Smith was arrested Friday morning with his vehicle reportedly up against a tree with his foot on the accelerator. Police said he was over the legal limit in California and that he was also in possession of marijuana at the time. Smith was previously arrested for DUI in Florida (in January of 2012) and is also the defendant in two civil lawsuits stemming from a party at his home that involved a shooting.
There were serious character concerns about Smith coming out of Missouri and the NFL is well aware of his pending legal matters. To this point, Smith has not been found guilty.
Smith has been one of the most productive pass rushers in NFL history through the first two full seasons of his career. As per the new CBA he would be eligible to re-work his rookie contract following his third season in the NFL. However, like fellow elite pass rusher Von Miller, the succession of off-field issues could mitigate his immediate earning potential substantially pending the outcome of these cases.
Saints may deal Mark Ingram
Saints running back Mark Ingram , selected at the bottom of the first round by New Orleans in 2011, has not been featured by the team early this season and could be another prominent recent draft pick to seek a change of scenery before the Week 8 trade deadline on October 29 at 4 p.m. ET.
The Colts made waves last week by acquiring Trent Richardson, like Ingram a former Alabama star, for a first-round pick (Richardson was selected third overall in 2012). While Richardson wasn't seeking a deal, league sources believe Ingram could do so in the coming weeks, with his role still nebulous in a crowded Saints backfield.
Ingram is a power back, who in college got better with more carries as he fed off the workload, but he hasn't seemed a fit in New Orleans, where Pierre Thomas remains a trusted veteran, Darren Sproles is one of the best third-down backs in the NFL, and they are currently carrying five backs on their roster.
Ingram has just one year beyond 2013 left on his rookie contract -- he is set to make $1.4 million in 2014 -- and in a climate that has changed recently given the Richardson deal and the Chiefs and 49ers swapping struggling recent first-round picks A.J. Jenkins and Jonathan Baldwin in the preseason, several general managers I talked to this week believe there will be much more of these types of deals to come. With the coaching carousel always spinning, and some coaches lasting only a year or two, young players don't always fit the new scheme and can fall out of favor quickly. But they have strong recent college film displaying their potential and under this new CBA, they come very, very cheap.
Teams are no longer burdened with trying to re-do bulky contracts, convert huge base salaries or have a massive accelerated cap proration preventing them from moving contracts on second- and third-year players. With that in mind, some expect more action than usual around the deadline this year, with players like Ingram perhaps prime candidates to be moved. Detroit, with a loaded backfield, has already received calls on recent second-round pick Mikel Leshoure (though league sources said they are very hesitant to deal him).
Quarterback Josh Freeman, a first-round pick in 2009, would welcome a trade and that situation is likely to escalate ahead of the deadline. The Patriots signed Steelers restricted free agent Emmanuel Sanders to an offer sheet in the offseason, and with New England desperate for pass catchers and the Steelers potentially falling off in the AFC this season and Sanders a candidate to leave as a free agent anyway, there is potential for a deal there as well. Sanders was a third-round pick in 2010.
Leshoure, Gerhart were on Colts' radar
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson cast a narrow and precise net in his search for a new running back in the wake of Vick Ballard's season-ending injury. He focused exclusively on running backs he viewed with solid potential who were still on their rookie deals, according to league sources. There were no calls placed to see what it would cost to obtain veterans like Maurice Jones-Drew or Fred Jackson, sources said, and the Colts did not include aging players in their evaluation process.
Grigson and his staff re-watched film of about five players primarily, according to sources, as they devised a strategy. Richardson, the third-overall pick in 2012, was obviously highest on their list, but as they knew it could be difficult to land him, they did not focus solely on him. They also made overtures to Detroit about Mikel Leshoure (the Lions quickly rebuffed sources said) and to Minnesota about backup Toby Gerhart, who played for Indy's offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton, at Stanford. Arizona's oft-injured Ryan Williams was another player they investigated. The Cards shopped Williams in the preseason but did not receive a call from Grigson, sources said. Additionally, former Chargers first-round pick Ryan Mathews, who has struggled and remains on his rookie deal, was not among the players Grigson considered, according to sources, nor was former Saints first-round pick Mark Ingram.
Grigson told the Browns on Wednesday that he had a deal for another running back agreed to -- he declined to reveal to me who it was, though I tried like heck to get him to -- and that was not a bluff. However, the other deal was not nearly as high profile as this. When Grigson informed Browns president Joe Banner of the other deal Wednesday afternoon (Grigson scouted for Banner in Philadelphia), Banner said he asked for more time to contemplate what Cleveland would do.
Trade talks between the Browns and Colts began in earnest Tuesday night, when Grigson inquired about Richardson's availability, and Banner asked for an hour to weigh options internally. When Banner called back he told Grigson that he would not do the deal for less than a first-round pick (Cleveland originally asked for multiple picks, including a first), and Grigson agreed to those conditions and the deal was struck.
Grigson said he was impressed with how Richardson is a fit in the power run game coach Chuck Pagano favors, and believes Richardson has the potential to be a standout player for him. “We feel like we added a very, very talented piece to the puzzle,” he said. “I don't see a 3.7-yard per carry back. He's not just a straight-line runner. We've seen him make guys miss and then run them over. He's still just 23 years old, and he fits the vision for what we are trying to build here.”
Antonio Brown vs. Todd Haley heating up
The sideline argument between Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley and receiver Antonio Brown , though not captured by television cameras Monday night, was very heated. It was the cause of considerable concern for some in the organization and did not come as a surprise to many Steelers.
The relationship between Haley and Brown has always been poor, according to several aware of the situation (“they've never gotten along,” one source put it), and given the combustible nature of their personalities, more fireworks could be ahead with the offense slumping badly in the first two defeats of the season. Should the Steelers falter again Sunday night against Chicago, there could be more incidents, and sources said other players besides Brown were at least on the periphery when Brown unleashed his diatribe on the coach, and may have joined in.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's strained relationship with Haley drew plenty of headlines last season, but things have actually been more volatile with Brown. Roethlisberger and Haley spend considerable time together during training camp and their dynamic had changed for the better, but with Pittsburgh unable to run or pass in the early part of the season, there is concern within that the Roethlisberger/Haley relationship could fray once more as well.
Roethlisberger's timing with his receivers has been poor, and several of the pass catchers are upset they are not seeing more of the ball. The team is hopeful that with tight end Heath Miller and running back Le'Veon Bell on the mend that some progress is ahead, but that's far from certain at this point. The offensive line is struggling, Roethlisberger's footwork has suffered, and he's held the ball too long again at times.
Coach Mike Tomlin, who has been hesitant to use some rookies early in the past, has a staff that hasn't had rookie receiver Markus Wheaton on the field as much as some expected, and if these problems continue to fester more drastic measures might not be all that far off. Tomlin was likely to have promoted running backs coach Kirby Wilson to coordinator in 2012 had he not suffered severe injuries in a fire, and ended up hiring Haley, who was let go as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.