Aldon Smith plays sparingly in return to 49ers lineup

AP

The 49ers got linebacker Aldon Smith back this week after his stay in rehab, but Smith’s presence in the lineup turned out to be a minimal one.

Smith played just two snaps in the first half of the game and about 12 snaps overall in San Francisco’s 10-9 loss to the Panthers. That’s a big drop from the role he was playing before he left the team and the 49ers pass rush did well without a heavy dose of Smith.

They sacked Cam Newton four times and pressured him several other times in a loss that has to be pinned almost entirely on an ineffective offense. Smith said after the game that he wanted to play more although he knew that wouldn’t happen in his first game back.

“Yeah, I was aware that I wasn’t going to play too much,” Smith said, via the Sacramento Bee.

Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said that Smith’s playing time was designed to ease him back into the lineup rather than any kind of punishment. Activating Smith and then not playing him as a punitive measure would make as much sense as cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, so you’d expect to see more of Smith in the future.