Reggie McKenzie, general manager for the Oakland Raiders, recently said via Jimmy Durkin of the Mercury News that he isn’t considering Aldon Smith and is rather focused on the players that are or will be available through the draft or on the active roster. For that reason, Smith’s future with the Raiders (or any team for that matter) seems murky at best.
Originally drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 NFL draft, Smith was a very solid player and was ranked second and third best outside linebacker in 2012 and 2013 respectively in the Bleacher Report’s NFL 1000 list. He was set to receive a blockbuster contract extension and be part of the 49ers future for years to come . That future never came as he started having substance problems, suspensions and eventually released by the 49ers in 2015.
Former 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement via ESPN that “this organization tried very hard to help Aldon fight his issues,” and that “although he was no longer a member of this team, our support and concern for him will continue.” Former head coach Jim Tomsula added that “there’s value in every human being. Go get help, you don’t have to walk alone. Find it, it’s there.”
Similarly, Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said in the NFL Owners Meeting last March that “my feeling is that I could help him.” Likewise, he mentioned that “the experts know; the experts don’t allow [contact]… I just have to follow the rules. But it does get frustrating to not be able to help a young man, help provide support. But somebody else has to make those decisions. That’s just out my hands.”
There is a common term when it comes to substance abuse: Help, which is essential in order to manage addictions, and Smith is not lacking any of it. Just like Balkee and Del Rio, many people in the NFL are willing to support him as even Hall-of-Famer Charles Haley has said that “I’m not done yet” helping Smith. However, he hasn’t had enough help or doesn’t want to take advantage of it as it isn’t known if he has been able to stay clean for a steady period of time.
On the other hand, a person with addiction problems needs more than just help and a support system, he needs to accept that he has a problem and confront it. He has to be aware that if he doesn’t do something about it, it can have life-changing consequences. As easy as it sounds, it’s far from it, but it’s something that needs to be done and apparently, it hasn’t happened yet.
Check out the Raider Ramble podcast as we sit down with Matt Berger of 590 The Fan to discuss the politics and consequences of relocation in the NFL.
Smith has all the potential in the world but without direction and the will to reach it, it’s useless. As pointed out previously, he needs help as well as a solid support system (which people are willing to provide), but what if he doesn’t want to heal. It is a question he only knows the answer to and we will eventually have to start asking. Smith has all the potential in the world but if he doesn’t want to maximize it, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Getting clean and improving as a person is a choice, a taxing one, but a choice nevertheless. Smith has to make a choice; the silver lining being that his story is not over yet, he still has time to make said choice and become a better person because of it and even play professional football once again.