49ers coach Jim Harbaugh addressed for the first time on Saturday the nine-game suspension imposed against linebacker Aldon Smith. Characteristically, Harbaugh didn’t have much to say.
“Well, I don’t see where any type of comment by me would be productive,” Harbaugh said.
He also declined to provide many details about why Smith has been allowed to remain with the team and what he will be able to do.
“I am still learning that myself,” Harbaugh said, twice.
It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out what Smith can and can’t do. It should be difficult to understand how Smith has been allowed to do anything. A player suspended under the personal-conduct policy is banished from the team. A player suspended for a year under the substance-abuse policy is banished from the team.
Smith was suspended under the personal-conduct policy and the substance-abuse policy for less than a year. It logically doesn’t follow that an enhanced suspension under a different policy would allow him to be with the team for the entire suspension.
The more appropriate outcome would have been for the league to impose separate suspensions on Smith. During the suspension under the personal-conduct policy, he would have been banished from the facility. During the suspension under the substance-abuse policy, he would have been be permitted to join the team.
Instead, the NFL crafted an unconventional (and, from the perspective of other players, unfair) outcome that underscores the possibility that Smith sacrificed his appeal rights under both policies in exchange for consideration such as the ability to stay with the team — and possibly even a reduced suspension for good behavior.