2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Aldon Smith thankful for new start, more playoffs

By JANIE McCAULEY - AP Sports Writer
    2014-01-04 17:26

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Aldon Smith appreciates these playoffs a little more.

A quarter of the season spent away from football's daily rigors, and the teammates and coaches he considers family, to deal with a serious personal matter will do that.

''Any time you take time off away from it, it makes you miss it,'' Smith said this week. ''And it means that much more to you.''

Smith took a five-game leave of absence from the 49ers to undergo treatment for substance abuse earlier this season. He is encouraged by the strides he has made to better himself off the football field that put life - and his work - in perspective.

Now, Smith's top goal is to return to the dominant defender he used to be only a year ago, and will look to chase down Aaron Rodgers in the wild-card playoffs for San Francisco (12-4) at Green Bay on Sunday, when he will be matched up against rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari.

''We're winning, we're in the playoffs, things are going good,'' Smith said. ''What else could I ask for right now?''

Smith emerged as one of the NFL's most-feared pass rushers in 2012. He had a franchise-record 19.5 sacks a year ago, but failed to record a sack in his final six games including the team's postseason Super Bowl run.

Just getting the chance to be back in the playoffs is something Smith cherishes right now, along with all the support he has received in the locker room that helped immensely with his comeback.

Smith said he hasn't had any alcohol since before his Sept. 20 DUI arrest, and he isn't craving it. When he rejoined the team Nov. 5, he insisted he was on the path to lifelong sobriety and he hasn't changed that stance as he continues to receive outside help in that process.

''It's been a while, since before the incident,'' Smith said of drinking, speaking in a candid interview with The Associated Press. ''It definitely is (in the past). I'm just focused on moving forward, getting to where I want to get and accomplishing the things I want to accomplish. Every time I'm on the practice field, I'm doing something to just get better. I'm continuing to work toward the goal. I'm excited and I've got to keep doing it.''

The 24-year-old Smith sought treatment at an out-of-state inpatient rehab facility this fall.

He spent a low-key New Year's Eve watching his girlfriend host a show on MTV, and didn't feel the urge to party.

''New Year's is just another day. I enjoy it like anybody else should enjoy it,'' he said. ''It's another day to be thankful for.''

Smith played in a 27-7 home loss to the Colts on Sept. 22 two days after he was arrested and jailed on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. After the game, he publicly apologized for his behavior and later announced he would leave for treatment.

While the Niners went on a five-game winning streak without him, Smith's menacing presence was sorely missed.

''Aldon's always had a good attitude, but even more so since he's been back. It's been amazing just looking at him from a distance and kind of checking out his body language,'' linebacker Patrick Willis said. ''He's really in good spirits. I'm just happy to see him playing football again. We're happy to have him on our team.''

His three fellow linebackers, Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Ahmad Brooks each made the Pro Bowl.

''Without a doubt we know Aldon would be there if he didn't have his setback,'' Bowman said. ''Him taking the leave from the team made him realize the opportunity he has and that he didn't just let down himself, he let down the team and his family. That's all you can ask for a guy to realize his mistakes and just do better. I can see a difference in him now, just the man he is today and how he's trying to carry himself. He's become a better person.''

Smith finished with 8 1/2 sacks and 34 tackles in 11 games with eight starts. He was initially worked back in slowly, but demonstrated he had stayed in shape while away.

He still had some catching up to do.

''Honestly, it was good to get away for a little while to collect my thoughts and make me appreciate the game that much more. I'm back now and I'm good,'' Smith said. ''It's the NFL. Any time you take a break from it, you'll miss a little bit of something that you had.''

49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio considers Smith to be at midseason level given the long layoff.

''He's played very well down the stretch here,'' Fangio said. ''He drew a lot of attention last week in their pass-protection plan because they saw the way he was playing. I feel good about where he is.''

Everybody is cheering for Smith's long-term health and well-being. And, to his credit, teammates aren't worrying about him as he continues to show encouraging signs.

''He's doing everything he needs to do,'' defensive lineman Justin Smith said. ''He wasn't given anything. He's earned his way back to where he's at. He's done everything that's been asked of him and then some.''

Smith plans to keep proving himself - in meetings, at practice and on game day.

''A lot of times, you go through adversity and it's easy to just give up and kind of write yourself off. But he didn't do that,'' Willis said. ''We didn't give up on him and he didn't give up on us. And he didn't give up on himself, most of all. That's what's most important. We have his back as his teammates, as his brothers, and we're just trying to win a championship.''

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Knowshon MorenoSep 2 09:33a

Miami Dolphins RB Lamar Miller totaled nearly 20 percent (140 yards) of his season yardage total (709 yards) on his longest four carries of the 2013 season. He had [ More ]

J.J. WattSep 2 04:23a

The Houston Texans signed DL J.J. Watt to a new long-term contract on Monday, Sept. 1. Watt's extension is a six-year deal worth $100 million, of which $51.876 million is guaranteed money.

Kyle Van NoySep 2 04:23a

Detroit Lions LB Kyle Van Noy (core muscle) could miss as many as eight games as he recovers from core muscle surgery. He could be placed on short-term IR as a result.

Josh BoyceSep 2 03:12a

The New England Patriots signed LB Jake Bequette, DL Deontae Skinner, OL Chris Martin, S Kanorris Davis, LS Charley Hughlett, CB Daxton Swanson and WR Josh Boyce to the [ More ]

Sammy WatkinsSep 2 01:02a

Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (ribs) said he felt fine after practice Monday, Sept. 1, and hopes to be on the field in Week 1.

A.J. EddsSep 2 12:43a

The New York Jets re-signed LB A.J. Edds Monday, Sept. 1.

Kevin DorseySep 2 12:03a

The Green Bay Packers signed WR Kevin Dorsey, C Garth Gerhart, WR Alex Gillett, RB Michael Hill, LB Adrian Hubbard and DE Luther Robinson to the practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Tim BenfordSep 1 11:52p

The Dallas Cowboys signed WR Tim Benford, DE Kenneth Boatright, C Ronald Patrick, CB Micah Pellerin, LB Keith Smith, LB William Smith and FB Nikita Whitlock to the practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Devon StillSep 1 10:42p

The Cincinnati Bengals signed OT Dan France, TE Kevin Greene, WR Cobi Hamilton, DT David King, WR Colin Lockett, CB Onterio McCalebb, DE Sam Montgomery, C Trevor Robinson, DT [ More ]

Isaiah FreySep 1 10:33p

The Chicago Bears signed WR Josh Bellamy, C Taylor Boggs, DT Brandon Dunn, DB Isaiah Frey, OG Ryan Groy, LB DeDe Lattimore, DB Albert Louis-Jean, DB Terrance Mitchell, DE [ More ]

Bryan WaltersSep 1 09:33p

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed free-agent WR Bryan Walters (Seahawks) to a contract Monday, Sept. 1. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

J. CunninghamSep 1 09:33p

The St. Louis Rams re-signed TE Justice Cunningham (ankle) and placed him on the season-ending reserve/injured list Monday, Sept. 1.

Quentin GrovesSep 1 09:33p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent LB Quentin Groves (Texans) to an undisclosed contract Monday, Sept. 1.

Charles JohnsonSep 1 09:23p

Free-agent C Josh Allen (Buccaneers), C Thomas Austin (Colts), OG Karim Barton (Browns), CB Akeem Davis (Redskins), LB Larry Dean (Vikings), TE Richard Gordon (Dolphins), TE Marcel Jensen (Vikings), [ More ]

Michael SamSep 1 08:02p

The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League owns the rights to free-agent DE Michael Sam (Rams). The team has reached out to him, but there is no word [ More ]

Jeremiah GeorgeSep 1 08:02p

The New York Jets placed LB Jeremiah George on no-recall waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Tim FuggerSep 1 08:02p

The New York Jets placed DE Tim Fugger (ankle) on no-recall waivers from the reserve/injured list Monday, Sept. 1, and he received an injury settlement.

Phil BatesSep 1 08:02p

The Seattle Seahawks placed WR Phil Bates on no-recall waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Don JonesSep 1 08:02p

The New England Patriots claimed CB Don Jones (Dolphins) off waivers Monday, Sept. 1.

Derek CarrSep 1 06:42p

Oakland Raiders QB Derek Carr will be the starting quarterback Week 1.

Charles JohnsonSep 1 05:42p

The Cleveland Browns signed free-agents WR Charles X. Johnson (Browns) and OG Karim Barton (Browns) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Khalid WootenSep 1 05:32p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent CB Khalid Wooten (Titans) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Phillip AdamsSep 1 04:52p

The New York Jets signed free-agents CB Phillip Adams (Seahawks) and released WR Quincy Enunwa Monday, Sept. 1.

Korey ToomerSep 1 04:22p

The Dallas Cowboys signed free-agent LB Korey Toomer (Seahawks) and released CB Jemea Thomas Monday, Sept. 1.

Case KeenumSep 1 04:22p

The St. Louis Rams claimed QB Case Keenum off waivers from the Houston Texans Monday, Sept. 1.

Ryan SuccopSep 1 04:22p

The Tennessee Titans signed free-agent PK Ryan Succop (Chiefs) to an undisclosed deal and released PK Travis Coons Monday, Sept. 1.

James IhedigboSep 1 04:22p

Detroit Lions SS James Ihedigbo (leg), FS Don Carey (undisclosed) and LB Kyle Van Noy (abdomen) did not practice Monday, Sept. 1.

Garrett GilbertSep 1 04:03p

The St. Louis Rams signed free-agents QB Garrett Gilbert (Rams), LB Kevin Reddick (Saints), SS Matt Daniels (Rams), LB Denicos Allen (Panthers) and OT Sean Hooey (Rams) to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1.

Bruce IrvinSep 1 03:52p

Seattle Seahawks WR Kevin Norwood (foot) and LB Bruce Irvin (hip) may play Week 1 against the Green Bay Packers, according to head coach Pete Carroll.

Corey PetersSep 1 03:32p

Atlanta Falcons DT Corey Peters (Achilles') is still iffy for the regular season opener. Head coach Mike Smith said he wants Peters to practice in pads Wednesday, Sept. 3, before making a decision.

Trai TurnerSep 1 03:12p

Carolina Panthers OG Trai Turner (groin) will start at right guard Sunday, Sept. 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to head coach Ron Rivera, though C Fernando Velasco may spot him at times.

Kyle WilliamsSep 1 03:02p

The Kansas City Chiefs released WR Kyle Williams Monday, Sept. 1.

RSS Feeds

NFL News:
 
Player Notes:
 
Forum Posts:
 

© 2014 RealTime Fantasy Sports, Inc.
Email Us  ·  Call Us 636.447.1170  ·  Lost Password
Advertising represented by USA Today Sports Media Group