It’s been two days since the anniversary of Aldon Smith’s one-year ban from the NFL. Since then, we have been collectively drumming our fingers for Commissioner Roger Goodell to come down from his throne to offer a sign whether Smith will be welcomed back into his kingdom.
Goodell isn’t under any obligation to say a word about how long he sees fit to keep Smith in limbo. The only official word will likely not come until if and when Smith is reinstated.
When Aldon was initially suspended on November 17 of last year, it was thought he would be making his return Monday night in Mexico City. Even then, it was not for certain. It was always going to be dependent upon the graces of Goodell. But there was no reason at the time to give Goodell any cause to extend Smith’s sentence.
That all chance last July when a video surfaced on Periscope under another name that many believed to be Aldon Smith holding a large joint in his hand while a girl told him “you shouldn’t be posting that” and he (allegedly) was heard saying “They don’t know it’s me, it’s not like I put ‘Aldon Smith...” just as the video cut off.
Smith took to twitter with the words “Good try, not me.” which remained on his Twitter account right up until just days ago when he deleted it, while adding a couple videos about his comeback.
Shortly after that joint video came out, Smith checked into rehab. And while nothing ever came of the video, and there is still no definitive proof it was him in it, Goodell has never required anything definitive — whether in a court of law or otherwise — to come to his disciplinary decisions.
That’s not to say Goodell is wrong for that approach — and in many cases he is absolutely right, considering NFL stars and their ability to pay off accusers to settle out of court — it’s merely worth pointing out.
Those who say “innocent until proven guilty” often leave off the “...in a court of law” part. The NFL is a business whose commissioner has full power to run his business and discipline his employees as he sees fit and isn’t beholden to the rules of our justice system.
Just like we can criticize the manner in which he swings his large hammer.
In an article I published when Smith was initially suspended, I criticized the way the league deals with the issue of substance abuse. Most importantly, the issue I have is that at a time when the player most needs his support system, the league rigidly rips it away from him.
When Smith first signed with the Raiders on September 11, 2015 — two days prior to the season opener — he raved about the support system he had among his Raiders teammates. Veteran and good friend Justin Tuck convinced the organization to take him on. Former teammate Michael Crabtree was also in Oakland. And Reggie McKenzie welcomed Smith and gave him his support as the general manager.
By midseason, Smith had his arraignment for the DUI charges that had him cut by the 49ers and a few weeks later Goodell handed down a one-year suspension. It was Smith’s third incident of this kind and his third suspension which was why it was so lengthy.
The closest thing we have for precedence is what happened with Josh Gordon, who was suspended indefinitely following multiple violations of the substance abuse policy and was reinstated after a year. However, Gordon popped positive for marijuana after being reinstated and was then suspended for four games.
Gordon was also allowed to re-join his teammates during that four-game ban. Smith is still banished from the facility as well as contact with his coaches until he is reinstated by the Commissioner.
When exactly that happens? Who knows. Could be next week, two weeks, or even be the remainder of the season (6 games) for all we know.
The countdown has begun.