SANTA CLARA, California (AP) The San Francisco 49ers released linebacker Aldon Smith on Friday after his fifth run-in with the law.
Smith received second chance after second chance with the Niners before they finally had enough, parting ways with the troubled but talented pass-rusher after Santa Clara police accused him of drunken driving, hit and run and vandalism.
It’s a tough blow for a team that watched several other young stars depart and retire this offseason.
The move came only three days after general manager Trent Baalke expressed his desire to keep Smith beyond this season, which would have been the last under his existing contract.
Instead Friday, Baalke and coach Jim Tomsula met with Smith at team headquarters after he left jail to inform him he was no longer part of the team.
”It’s a sad day,” Tomsula said during an emotional news conference. ”This is a day that doesn’t have anything to do about football.”
Tomsula spoke to a couple of players, then the entire team in Friday afternoon.
”I’m just more concerned about him as a person,” receiver Anquan Boldin said. ”Football doesn’t come into play when it comes to a situation like that.”.
Smith had said when camp began he was healthy and in great shape, ”ready to go.” While he is free to sign with any team, not needing to go through waivers, he likely would first face another lengthy NFL suspension.
Police said Friday that at 8:46 p.m., Smith collided with a parked vehicle while parking his car, then caused further damage to the parked vehicle with his car door. The scene was only a couple of miles from team headquarters, at or on the street of Smith’s luxury apartment complex.
Authorities said Smith left without reporting the collision or providing any identifying information. He later returned to and was contacted by officers. Smith displayed ”objective symptoms of being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage” and officers conducted a field sobriety test, police said.
Smith denied he was driving under the influence during a brief interview with a local television station before Tomsula’s news conference.
”Justice will be served, the truth will come out,” Smith told KTVU Fox 2 as he walked out of jail. ”There’s no DUI. … I want everybody to understand the situation that happened could have been handled differently.”
San Francisco has had 12 arrests or charges filed involving seven players since January 2012, prompting owner Jed York to promise the team would ”win with class.” The Niners released defensive tackle Ray McDonald late last season for his off-field problems.
Smith missed the first nine games of 2014 serving an NFL suspension for violations of the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
The 25-year-old Smith also missed time during the 2013 season to undergo treatment at an inpatient facility following his DUI arrest on Sept. 20 that year. Later in the year, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home.
Smith was arrested on April 13, 2014, at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.
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