It was quite surprising last Friday to learn that the Raiders took a chance on former 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith despite his five arrests in four NFL seasons. Just a month off of his most recent arrest for yet another DUI, he was in a Raiders uniform playing in the team's season opener.
There is no question the 49ers were very patient with him. Teams tend to give longer leashes to guys who have put up the kind of sack numbers Smith has in his career, including 19.5 sacks in his second season in the league. It shows you just how bad things had gotten for the former All Pro pass rusher.
Following his release in San Francisco, Smith sat on the shelf awaiting the results of his latest arrest as well as punishment from the league. Neither was handed down which prompted several teams to contact him wanting to bring him into the fold.
He chose the Raiders for a number of reasons
"I had a couple choices. Places I could go," said Smith. "Places had different [contract] offers, some more, some less, some the same, but I have a house here. I have a son here. This is my home. I really love the bay area, the people and I don't wanna go."
"I'm doing really good. I'm just excited to be here, to have this chance with this team. Be a part of a bunch of guys who work hard and an organization that looks out for their players and just a fresh start."
Coming to Oakland isn't just about location, though. The Raiders have Justin Tuck who is a great friend of Smith's. Tuck admitted Sunday he had a little to do with Smith coming across the bay.
"Yeah, I had a little bit to do with it," said Tuck. "Aldon and I go back a lot longer than people think we do. I've always admired him from afar. Getting an opportunity to work with him, I'm excited. Pairing him with Mack can be a tremendous asset for us."
"We do have the same agent, we've worked out together, we have the same trainer, some other stuff. We go back far enough."
One of the things the Raiders spoke of when they signed Smith was the veteran influence and support he would have in Oakland. Tuck is the key part of that support system with the team.
"Me and Tuck are good friends," said Smith. "He's a good influence. He's a guy who's been around the league and had his ups and downs and everything so he's definitely somebody I can learn from and somebody I can look to if I need some help with something."
Another familiar face Smith has in Oakland is Michael Crabtree.
"Aldon's like family," said Crabtree. "Been around him a long time, that's like family. We're gonna be alright. His first game, no practice, just jumping in."
As we expected, Smith saw a few plays in this game. As it happens, his one pressure resulted in a tackle for loss by Justin Tuck on a dump to the running back.
Asking him to come in and contribute after just two days with the team is a tall order. Especially since other than his one practice with the Raiders on Friday, he hasn't practiced with an NFL team for a month.
But far more important than his initial contribution is his long term prospects. Aside from the things he can't control at this point - the pending charges and possible league suspension - his future contributions are contingent upon his ability to stay out of trouble. And his staying out of trouble is dependent upon his ability to stay sober.
"I'm been doing a good job taking care of myself," said Smith. "I've got a really good support system around me of people who care about me and people I can talk to and just I'm fortunate to have the people around me that I do have."
"Everything happens for a reason. That's how I look at it. I don't point the finger at anybody, I don't think too much about it, I just move on and move forward."