Back in April, the Raiders announced they had re-signed linebacker Aldon Smith. The franchise knew Smith was suspended for the first part of the 2016 regular season – because of a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy – but liked what they saw of the former 49er in nine games in 2015, when he had 3½ sacks.
Head coach Jack Del Rio loved what Smith brought to his defense and told reporters this offseason that he believes Smith can be a strong contributing force to the Raiders.
“I think in his heart he’s a good young man,” Del Rio said. “I feel like all of us, we can all work to be better, and in my time around him, I enjoyed being around him. Good teammate. Good to be around. He’s a good kid.”
But as the Raiders open training camp this week, Smith’s future with the team – and in the NFL – is a bit cloudier because of a video posted online that has caught the attention of the league.
As CSNBayArea.com, ESPN.com, the Bay Area News Group, NBC's Pro Football Talk and other news outlets reported Sunday and Monday, the NFL is expected to conduct an investigation into the video that could tie Smith to a further violation of the league’s policy on banned substances.
According to ESPN, the short video is archived in a Periscope account that Smith reportedly has used in recent months. Smith never appears in the video that is titled "Fire up session," according to the Bay Area News Group, but the voices of a man and a woman talk about lighting up a hand-rolled cigarette. The woman, according to ESPN, is heard telling the man that he “shouldn’t even be posting that.” The man responds at the end of the video by saying, “They don’t know it’s me. It’s not like I put ‘Aldon Smith,’ ” ESPN reported.
Smith responded to the reports Monday on Twitter, denying that the Periscope video is him. Smith wrote, "Good try, not me."
The NFL investigation could, of course, clear Smith. We'll have to wait to find out. But Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk noted that the video casts more shadows on a player who once was among the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL with the 49ers.
“It’s still not entirely clear that Smith is the person in the video, but it sure seems that he is,” Florio wrote. He suggested that if the investigation determines Smith has committed a violation of NFL policy, he could “be on track” to banishment from the league.
Smith, just 26, has 46½ sacks in 59 NFL games after being a first-round draft choice of the 49ers in 2011 out of Missouri.
The Raiders were excited about the prospect of having Smith on a defense that added outside linebacker/pass rusher Bruce Irvin this offseason. With Khalil Mack, Irvin and Smith, the Raiders would have three players who have proven they can get to the quarterback.
After signing with the Raiders, Irvin had tweeted to Smith that he couldn’t wait to play with Smith and Mack. Smith had responded with, “Let’s go! It’s time.”