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SANTA CLARA – When 49ers general manager Trent Baalke was asked Friday if he hopes outside linebacker Aldon Smith can be a member of the 49ers in 2014 and 2015, he immediately jumped in.
“And ‘16 and ‘17 and ’18,” Baalke told reporters in his first public comments since Smith was arrested April 13 for making a “false report of a bomb threat” at Los Angeles International Airport.
After Baalke answered several questions about Smith, it was clear that he has not given up on the 49ers’ embattled pass-rusher.
“Can I make it any clearer?” Baalke asked.
“I’m a firm believer in the humanistic approach to everything,” Baalke said. “You continue to work, just like you would with any family member. We’re a family. You just don’t open the door and toss people out of it. You continue to work until they leave you no choice.”
Still, he said the team has not decided whether to pick up Smith's fifth-year option of $9.754 million for the 2015 season. The salary is not guaranteed. The deadline to pick up the option is May 3.
“Everything factors in, right? You take a look at everything,” Baalke said. “The one word I can use to describe the situation is disappointing. But the important thing is that it’s equally disappointing to Aldon.”
Smith received good news on Thursday when the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office announced that Smith would not face a felony charge stemming from the airport incident. If Smith is charged with anything, it will be a misdemeanor. He is scheduled next to appear in Santa Clara Superior Court on Tuesday on felony gun charges, as well as a misdemeanor DUI charge.
Smith faces the possibility of an NFL suspension, Baalke acknowledged.
“That remains to be seen, but you prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Baalke said. “There are still a lot of things that are going to factor into that decision at the league level and the club level. We’re working very diligently in the background to make sure the right decisions are made long term, not only for Aldon but for this club.”
Smith is taking part in the 49ers’ offseason program, which began on Monday. And Baalke made it clear the 49ers organization will not turn its back on him. Baalke declined to discuss specifics about the 49ers’ plan with Smith off the field.
The 49ers showed support for Smith last season after he was arrested for DUI in September. The team continued to pay his full salary when he took a voluntary leave of absence to seek treatment for substance abuse during the 2013 season.
“We’re going to continue to work with him and find ways to support (him), not defend (him),” Baalke said. “We cannot defend the actions of others. All we can do is support (him), create an environment that is conducive to improving in the areas you need to improve in. And as long as he’s a 49er we continue to do that.”
Baalke repeatedly remarked about the “disappointment” of Smith’s latest off-the-field incident. When asked to state where Smith’s mindset is right now, Baalke said, “Growing. Growing. Starting to understand, starting to realize the importance of his own accountability.”
Baalke added, “I think Aldon’s made very good strides in a lot of aspects. He continues to work at it every day -- just like I do, just like everybody else. You try to become a better person every day. . . . Sometimes you hit a speed bump. You got to learn. Repeat offenders, when it becomes repetitive, it becomes a concern.”