Kovaleski: Aldon Smith could face up to four years in jail
When asked how “progress” regarding Aldon Smith's recovery is defined, Trent Baalke said there are a lot of factors that will be considered. (USATSI)
Trent Baalke: "We would expect to be meeting with him in the near future, but that can change.” (USATSI)
Editor’s note: Read Insider Matt Maiocco’s reports from the U.K. all week long as the 49ers gear up for their Week 8 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London
LONDON -- The 49ers expect to meet with All-Pro outside linebacker Aldon Smith in the near future with the hope that everything will lead toward a long-term union.
“That’s obviously the ultimate goal,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Friday morning in a meeting with reporters at the team hotel.
“At the same time, like with every player on our football team, there’s a lot of things that go into those long-term decisions. And we’ll continue to monitor his situation and do what we ultimately feel is the best for the organization when it comes to long-term deals.”
Smith voluntarily entered in-patient treatment for substance abuse on Sept. 23 – three days after his arrest on DUI charges and one day after the controversial decision for him to suit up and play against the Indianapolis Colts.
On Sunday, when the 49ers face the Jacksonville Jaguars, it will be the team's fifth game without Smith. He remains on the reserve/non-football illness list while taking a voluntary leave of absence.
Smith, one of the game's top defensive players and the winner of the Bill Walsh Award as the 49ers' MVP, is signed through the 2014 season. Under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, the 49ers can begin negotiating a long-term extension with Smith after the current season.
[RELATED: Source: 49ers may meet with Smith during bye week]
Baalke said the door remains open for Smith to play this season. When asked what the 49ers need to see from Smith before his return to the playing field, Baalke answered, “Progress.”
He explained: “You’re developing that trust factor again. And we all understand, and that includes Aldon, situations like this have to be in the past. We’re going to work awfully hard to make that happen.”
When asked how “progress” is defined, Baalke said there are a lot of factors that will be considered.
“I think there are a lot of layers to looking at the progress,” Baalke said. “It’s using every vehicle you have. (It’s) no different than what we do in the scouting process when gathering information. There are a lot of layers to it. And you do the best you can to determine the decisions that you need to make for the organization.”
Following the 49ers’ 31-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he was “hopeful” Smith would return to action this season. Baalke echoed that statement.
“I would support exactly what Jim has said because it’s no different than what we’re talking about internally,” Baalke said. “We’re obviously hopeful, but at the same time we’re prepared for either outcome.”
[NBC Bay Area: Did Aldon Smith receive preferential treatment from sheriff? ]
The 49ers could meet with Smith during the bye week, but Baalke said there is no set plan.
“There’s no timeline on it,” he said. “We would expect to be meeting with him in the near future, but that can change.”
The 49ers drew plenty of criticism with their decision to suit up Smith for one more game before he entered into treatment. Baalke said he knew the team would be subject to criticism, but he said the decision was “in the best interest of the young man.”
“Those can be, and obviously have been, questioned by many,” Baalke said. “But our ultimate goal hasn’t changed, and that’s to help Aldon get back to a place where he feels very comfortable and can move forward in a very positive manner.
“We all understand the severity – and Aldon understands the severity – of the situation, and the situations he’s put himself in and the organization in. Nobody feels worse about it than Aldon. But what we’re trying to do now is focus on moving forward. So there is no timeline with respect to Aldon. That’s yet to be determined. We’re working with him and we’re ultimately we’re going to do what we feel is best for him and the organization as a whole.”