The San Francisco 49ers released Aldon Smith Friday after the linebacker was arrested on suspicion of DUI, hit-and-run and vandalism - his fifth arrest since 2012.
“This organization has tried very hard to help Aldon fight his issues," the team said in a statement. "Although he is no longer a member of this team, our support and concern for him will continue.”
At a news conference Friday before noon, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula appeared visibly upset. His word were choked with emotion. "We care about that guy. Deeply," he said, urging Smith and anyone with alcoholic issues to get help. If anyone is out there "struggling," Tomsula said, "Get help. You are worth it."
Tomsula said he spoke to Smith personally, but declined to share the conversation.
"The guy is working really hard, and he had a pitfall," Tomsula added. "Everybody has struggles. They are just in different ways."
Later Friday, Smith's teammates also shared their thoughts on the incident.
"It's a sad day for the team," 49ers safety Eric Reid said. "He's obviously a huge cog in the wheel for us and we’re going to miss him but it's more than just about football right now."
Despite deeming Smith a "great football player," Anquan Boldin agreed. The wide receiver said that, to him, "it’s not about football" but about "making sure [Smith's] OK as a person."
As the 49ers were letting go of Smith, Santa Clara police held an almost simultaneous news conference outside department headquarters where Lt. Kurt Clarke said that Smith had struck a neighbor's car Thursday at 8:46 p.m. in the 500 block of Moreland Way where he lives in a luxury apartment complex. He talked with the neighbor and ended up leaving the scene on foot, only to return home an hour later, also on foot. When he did, Clarke said, he appeared drunk and failed a sobriety test. He was arrested just before midnight.
The vandalism charge, Clarke said, is for when Smith's car door banged into the neighbor's car in the complex lot. Because of a prior weapons conviction, Smith is not allowed to drink any alcohol and drive.
Outside jail on Friday, Smith told reporters that he was sorry and that there was more to the story.
"It wasn't a DUI and I apologize for how it played out," he said calmly outside the jail. "This wasn't a DUI. The situation that happened could have been handled differently. I'm sorry to everyone that I let down. Justice will be served. It will work out how it's supposed to work out."
The arrest is Smith’s fifth since 2012 – three of which were for DUIs.