Gareon Conley’s dismissed charges had the entire Raiders fan base sighing with relief. But let’s not forget there is still one Raider in exile. There’s still one member of the Silver and Black awaiting a decision on his NFL future.
Aldon Smith has no update on his reinstatement. As fans, we can’t just sweep this under the rug and forget about Smith.
On the field, Smith has 47.5 sacks in 59 career games. The Raiders desperately need that addition to a defense that only had seven sacks from players not named Khalil Mack or Bruce Irvin last season. Smith’s versatility fits exactly what the Raiders need in a hybrid end and linebacker. But none of that matters is Smith isn’t reinstated.
Players like Mack and Derek Carr have showed their support for Smith with tweets in the past. This shows the kind of teammate that he is.
Regardless, it appears that the Raiders might be ready to move on because they already assigned his number 99 to Fadol Brown. This is a minor formality but proof that Smith is out of sight and out of mind. Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie said as much before the draft. McKenzie said the team was not considering the pass rusher who is still on the injured/reserved list.
However, head coach Jack Del Rio has expressed how he would like to help Smith. Late in the season, Del Rio expressed his disappointment with the entire process. JDR said Smith should have a right to make a living if he has a chance to return to the league.
The truth is, we don’t know if Smith has a chance at returning to the league. The NFL hasn’t made it public.
What we do know is that Smith was detained for a car accident and being drunk in public. We do know there was that video after where he seemed drunk. There’s also the video that may or may not have been him sparking a weed blunt. There was also the investigation into a domestic violence incident. Still, none of that resulted in charges.
Granted, the NFL does consider incidents that tarnish the brand of the shield. Whatever that means… Thus, Smith’s inability to stay out of the press might be enough to keep him suspended indefinitely. If that is the case, the NFL needs to tell us and Smith that.
Otherwise, keeping Smith from earning a living is just wrong. If his social media videos are any indication, Smith is staying in shape and he wants to return. The NFL shouldn’t keep Smith from jeopardizing his body in this brutal game, if he is good enough and able to play. If the team doesn’t want to deal with the headache, let them determine that not the NFL.
Ultimately, Smith might find himself in a Daryl Washington situation. Smith might find himself too far removed from his prime when he is actually reinstated. The Raiders might even cut Smith when he is reinstated just because they’re so far removed from him being on the team.
Still, Smith deserves a decision. The NFL can’t just hijack Smith’s prime without making an official decision. The support system of the Raiders may help Smith build a steady environment that keeps him from drinking and getting into situations.
On the other hand, Smith might need to face the harsh reality that he will never play again. Until he sees that in writing, the 27-year-old may never find the strength to overcome his battle with alcoholism.
Substance Abuse is an illness that millions of people suffer with everyday. The NFL needs to stop acting like its some saint that didn’t admit to causing head injuries and pain killer abuse. Those are separate issues but the point is we haven’t turned our back on the NFL. The NFL shouldn’t abandon its players or keep them in limbo.
At the very least, the NFL should stop acting like substance abuse is some nasty habit that is easily kicked. We all know some one who has dealt with substance issues. We all know work and support are keys to overcoming these issues. The NFL can provide that with Smith if they determine he is worthy of wearing the shield. Again, what does that mean?
Either way, the NFL needs to make a decision on Aldon Smith’s future. The Raiders, Smith and the fans can all move on once we know if the pass rusher can come or go.
Smith had the potential to become one of the greatest pass rushers ever. He deserves to know if it is worth pursuing that potential still or close the chapter entirely. Until a decision on Smith’s reinstatement is final, it’s Free Aldon!
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