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

Steven JacksonDec 22 09:33a

Atlanta Falcons RB Steven Jackson (quadriceps) is expected to be ready for Week 17.

Mark SanchezDec 22 08:43a

Philadelphia Eagles QB Mark Sanchez will start in Week 17 against the New York Giants instead of QB Matt Barkley, according to head coach Chip Kelly.

Johnny ManzielDec 22 03:33a

The Cleveland Browns may look to upgrade the quarterback position in the offseason despite the presence of QB Johnny Manziel. League sources have said Browns general manger Ray Farmer [ More ]

Aaron RodgersDec 22 12:02a

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (calf) tweaked his calf in the Week 16 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but said Sunday, Dec. 21, that he expects to [ More ]

Odell Beckham Jr.Dec 21 09:13p

New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. posted eight receptions for 148 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Week 16 game against the St. Louis Rams. He [ More ]

Alameda Ta'amuDec 21 07:42p

The Arizona Cardinals have declared DL Alameda Ta'amu, OG Anthony Steen, WR Brittan Golden, SS Chris D. Clemons, QB Drew Stanton, OG Jonathan Cooper, DL Kareem Martin inactive for Week 16.

Chris MatthewsDec 21 07:32p

The Seattle Seahawks have declared WR Chris Matthews, DL Demarcus Dobbs, WR Kevin Norwood, C Max Unger, OT Russell Okung, TE Tony Moeaki, DL Travian Robertson inactive for Week 16.

Matthew StaffordDec 21 05:12p

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford completed 22 of 39 passes for 243 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the Week 16 game against the Chicago Bears. He [ More ]

Ahmad DixonDec 21 11:52a

The Minnesota Vikings have declared SS Ahmad Dixon, LB Anthony Barr, OT Carter Bykowski, OG Charlie Johnson, TE Kyle Rudolph, CB Shaun Prater, FB Zach Line inactive for Week 16.

Devier PoseyDec 21 11:52a

The Houston Texans have declared WR DeVier Posey, TE Garrett Graham, LB Jason Ankrah, S Josh Aubrey, LB Mike Mohamed, QB Tom Savage, OG Xavier Su'a-Filo inactive for Week 16.

A.J. KleinDec 21 11:52a

The Carolina Panthers have declared LB A.J. Klein, OG Amini Silatolu, CB Carrington Byndom, OT David Foucault, RB DeAngelo Williams, DL Kyle Love, SS Robert Lester inactive for Week 16.

Charles GodfreyDec 21 11:52a

The Atlanta Falcons have declared CB Charles Godfrey, LB James Anderson, OG Jon Asamoah, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Sean Renfree, DL Stansly Maponga, LB Tyler Starr inactive for Week 16.

Jamarca SanfordDec 21 11:52a

The New Orleans Saints have declared SS Jamarca Sanford, DL Lawrence Virgil, LB Moise Fokou, WR Seantavius Jones, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, OT Terron Armstead, RB Travaris Cadet inactive for Week 16.

Justin BrownDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Clifton GeathersDec 21 11:52a

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared OG Chris Hubbard, DL Clifton Geathers, CB Ike Taylor, WR Justin Brown, QB Landry Jones, TE Matt Spaeth, SS Troy Polamalu inactive for Week 16.

Carl BradfordDec 21 11:42a

The Green Bay Packers have declared DL Bruce Gaston, LB Carl Bradford, CB Davon House, C Garth Gerhart, WR Jeff Janis, TE Justin Perillo, QB Scott Tolzien inactive for Week 16.

Chris McCainDec 21 11:42a

The Miami Dolphins have declared LB Chris McCain, OT Dallas Thomas, RB Daniel Thomas, CB Don Jones, WR Matt Hazel, OG Nate Garner, WR Rishard Matthews inactive for Week 16.

Arthur BrownDec 21 11:42a

The Baltimore Ravens have declared LB Arthur Brown, DL Casey Walker, CB Chris Greenwood, C Gino Gradkowski, WR Michael Campanaro, OG Ryan Jensen, DL Terrence Cody inactive for Week 16.

Aaron MurrayDec 21 11:42a

The Kansas City Chiefs have declared QB Aaron Murray, RB Charcandrick West, WR Donnie Avery, C Eric Kush, OT Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, CB Marcus Cooper, DL Nick X. Williams inactive for Week 16.

Gary BarnidgeDec 21 11:42a

The Cleveland Browns have declared OT Andrew McDonald, TE Gary Barnidge, RB Glenn Winston, CB Joe Haden, DB K'Waun Williams, WR Rodney Smith, OT Vinston Painter inactive for Week 16.

Chris ConteDec 21 11:42a

The Chicago Bears have declared FS Chris Conte, QB David Fales, OG Kyle Long, PK Robbie Gould, CB Terrance Mitchell, DL Trevor Scott, DL Will Sutton inactive for Week 16.

Dakota DozierDec 21 11:33a

The New York Jets have declared OL Dakota Dozier, SS Jaiquawn Jarrett, QB Matt Simms, FS Rontez Miles, DL T.J. Barnes, WR Walter Powell, OG Wesley Johnson inactive for Week 16.

Alfonzo DennardDec 21 11:33a

The New England Patriots have declared CB Alfonzo Dennard, OG Dan Connolly, RB James White, OT Jordan Devey, WR Julian Edelman, CB Kyle Arrington, RB LeGarrette Blount inactive for Week 16.

Anthony CollinsDec 21 11:32a

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have declared OT Anthony Collins, FB Evan Rodriguez, CB Isaiah Frey, DL Lawrence Sidbury, RB Mike James, WR Robert Herron, WR Solomon Patton inactive for Week 16.

Kelvin BenjaminDec 21 11:22a

Carolina Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin won't face Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden (shoulder) Sunday, Dec. 21, who is out with a shoulder injury.

Joe HadenDec 21 11:22a

Cleveland Browns CB Joe Haden (shoulder) is out Sunday, Dec. 21.

Julio JonesDec 21 11:22a

Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) is active Sunday, Dec. 21.

Jay CutlerDec 21 10:22a

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler is receiving trade interest from the Tennessee Titans. If the Titans landed him, it would alter the 2015 NFL Draft board dramatically.

T Y HiltonDec 21 10:22a

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) is a long shot to play Sunday, Dec. 21. However, he's going to try to suit up.

DeMarco MurrayDec 21 10:12a

Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (hand) will play Sunday, Dec. 21, but the team is nervous how well he'll hold up in pass protection. If the team qualifies for [ More ]

Zach ErtzDec 20 07:42p

Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz had 15 catches for 115 yards Saturday, Dec. 20. Both of which are career highs.

Philip RiversDec 20 07:22p

San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers (back) is active Saturday, Dec. 20, for Week 16.

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