Time and again, Aldon Smith has teased Bay Area fans.
First it was with the 49ers, as he showed over his first three seasons that he might be bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as an elite pass rusher. Then, after a host of off-field incidents derailed his career, Smith keeps teasing the Raiders and their fans with the possibility of a comeback.
By now, anyone who’s paying attention is taking every new development – or hint of hope – with a very large grain of salt.
Smith, an outside linebacker, hasn’t played with Oakland since the late stages of the 2015 season when he was suspended for violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. But in February, he said he expected to be reinstated by the NFL in March and was ready to dominate again.
“I’m back,” Smith said, after posting videos on social media that pointed to a comeback. “And there’s nobody who can stop me. You already know it, Raider Nation. … ”
Just before the NFL draft, however, Smith still wasn’t reinstated, and general manager Reggie McKenzie wasn’t holding his breath.
“As far as Aldon and the draft, our thought process is just on the draft,” McKenzie said in late April. “Not considering Aldon at this point. He’s still on the suspension list, so we’re not considering him at this point.”
Now, Jason Cole, who covers the NFL for Bleacher Report, says Smith remains far from a return to the field.
“Sources close to Aldon Smith said the former Raiders and 49ers linebacker is nowhere close to reinstatement to the NFL, despite claims by Smith that he would return soon,” reported Cole on Wednesday. Cole said Smith has “strayed” from the regimen and rules he’s supposed to follow.
“Those sources claim Smith has made no consistent effort to follow the program the league has laid out,” Cole reported. “One source said he’ll have one great week, and then the next week he’s back to having problems.”
So until Smith shows up on the Raiders’ practice field in helmet and pads, McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio are wise in not counting on his contributions. For now, they’ll count on the likes of Khalil Mack, Bruce Irvin, Jelani Jenkins and Mario Edwards Jr. to get to the passer.
It’s long past time to tune out Smith and his updates.