Aldon Smith puts Jim Harbaugh’s “above reproach” stance to the test


Last year, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh took notice of the rival Seahawks having players suspended for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy, and Harbaugh used the Seahawks’ troubles as an opportunity to explain his own philosophy about holding players accountable.

“We want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules,” Harbaugh said.

Now one of Harbaugh’s most talented players is putting that stance to the test.

Aldon Smith, the dynamic pass rusher who was the first player the 49ers drafted in Harbaugh’s tenure as head coach, has been arrested again, this time for claiming he had a bomb at airport security. Police say Smith appeared to be drinking before the incident, which is of particular concern because Smith missed five games last year while spending time in a rehab facility following a DUI arrest. That was the second DUI arrest for Smith during his time with the 49ers, and he’s also currently facing felony weapons charges stemming from another incident.

Whatever else you can say about Smith, he is most certainly not “above reproach in everything.”

This puts Harbaugh in a bind. Harbaugh has already faced some criticism for allowing Smith to play in a game against the Colts last season, after the DUI arrest but before he went into rehab. The fact that Smith apparently still hasn’t learned his lesson will open Harbaugh up to more questions about just how many second chances Smith is going to get.

If Harbaugh, 49ers G.M. Trent Baalke and 49ers owner Jed York really want to show that they’re serious about being “above reproach,” they could release Smith. But that’s extremely unlikely. When a player as talented as Smith gets into trouble, teams usually decide that they simply can’t get rid of a great talent, no matter how many off-field headaches he causes.

The 49ers have every right to make that calculation, but the next time Harbaugh is asked about another team’s troubles, he probably shouldn’t hold up his own team as a symbol of being above reproach in everything.

96 responses to “Aldon Smith puts Jim Harbaugh’s “above reproach” stance to the test

  1. Doubtless someone will show up and claim that he was only referring specifically to PED’s….as if behavioral problems don’t have the potential to be far, far worse than attempted cheating.

  2. This is another team that has so much tremendous potential that they could easily be the best team in the NFL for the long-term, and absolutely should have been based upon the position and the opportunity they have had set up for themselves the last couple years. But once again we see a team that dismantles their full potential by not having a strong GM or HC which can go a long way to realizing a franchise’s full potential.

    Clean up the front office, then focus on dominating in football. You have to do Step 1 first though.

  3. The Harbaugh boys seem to be having a rough offseason. Maybe the one-liners, quotes and rah rah attitude rolls off the ears of players like alcohol down Aldon Smith’s and Ray Rice’s throat. It seems their message isnt driving players it is driving players to drink.

  4. Harbaugh was just talking about performance drugs, don’t misquote him. ” It has no place in an athlete’s body,” Harbaugh said regarding the NFL’s list of banned substances. “Play by the rules. You want to be above reproach, especially when you’re good, because you don’t want people to come back and say, ‘They’re winning because they’re cheating.”

  5. Maybe Jim Harbaugh should quit criticizing the Seahawks with their problems. Looks like the 49ers have several things that he needs to take care of. Starting with Aldon Smith who obviously needs to go back to rehab, before something else happens.

  6. they will act as if nothing has happened…
    classless organization
    lets hear ya spin this one whiners fans……

  7. its funny to me that people will suggest cutting him for suspending him. In a situation like this it appears obvious that the guy has an alcohol problem. Why not tell him that he can’t play or practice or work out with the team until he completes a 30 or 60 or 90 day treatment program. If he refuses then cut him. Wouldnt that benefit everybody involved ? The NFL seems to be completely in the dark when it comes to assisting its players (and owners) deal with dependency issues.

  8. I really think this man’s issues goes beyond substance abuse, and is more in the realm of mental illness. Anybody that would tell a TSA agent they have a bomb, especially in this post 9/11 world isn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. The league should really have this dude examined before they allow him to play again.

  9. I thought he was just referring to PED’s. Though anyone with half a brain heard that statement and thought he better hope his team has no incidents or he will look like a dam hypocrite. Should have know better as he has no control over what players do away from team and more then likely their would be some sort of incident. I am a little taken back by all the stories this year, I hope it doesn’t effect the results this season

  10. Sometimes when a whacky comment is made you explain it by saying “Well, you had to be there to see the humor of it.”. In Aldon’s case, it’s more like “You had to be far away from there to see the humor of it.”.

  11. OOOHHH, I must apologize for AGREEING with coach for all this time. I thought he said, “We want to be above a ROACH in everything.” NOW I see why so many of my friends were so angry with me when I told them I sided with JH!

  12. “We WANT to be above reproach” not “We are above reproach”. Jim’s sentence is a goal not a declaration. It is a continuing goal not to be abandoned or scoffed at because one player may or may not fall short.

    How about giving credit to a team for setting such a goal. Since Bill Walsh came to the 49ers the team has had class and still does. Sure there have been some missteps but by and large they have kept on that path.

    Jim is wound tight but is good for the league and is fun to root for and obviously fun to root against as well. I think even those who detest him the most will admit he loves football and respects the game.

  13. “Release Him” like every other team wouldn’t put in a claim on him. I hope it comes out later he actually said “I have Kaps bong” and not the other word

  14. No way Seahawk fans commenting on a Niners article. That never happens.

    Seattles fanbase is more obsessed with the Niners than they are their actual team.

  15. It’s worth pointing out that though the Niners have had some unfortunate incidents lately, and they need to do something to change the culture, none of these incidents can be considered CHEATING.

  16. gohawks89 says:
    Apr 14, 2014 5:51 PM
    they will act as if nothing has happened…
    classless organization
    lets hear ya spin this one whiners fans……
    49ers are having some serious issues that need addressing and as a niner fan I hope they clean up this mess and properly discipline any offenders but lets get one things straight while throwing jabs at teams/coaches/fans etc
    Their team is a force to reckon with and certainly were the best team of 2013, but their fans continue to show lower class than any other city….all over ONE successful year

  17. At this time last year, Aldon Smith was my favorite 49er. If you watch his bit on NFL Network’s Mic’d up sessions, the kid is funny and has a ton of fun playing the game, on top of being the fastest player ever to the number of sacks he has amassed. When Aldon is on the field he is hands down one of the premier talents in the NFL, and when he’s off the field he is hands down one of the most childish individuals in the entire league.

    It’s very odd to see someone with so much talent and the potential to be one of the greatest ever at his position, squander last season and potentially this season as well. So disappointing for 49er fans.

  18. Aldon Smith will just bring a copy of his stat sheet to the 9ers brass while wearing MC Hammer pants, and singing “can’t touch this” in Baalke’s office….because he knows they won’t do anything to him!

  19. Everyone deserves a second chance when they demonstrate a desire to improve as a person. Smith just needs a few more second chances and then maybe he will start acting like a man.

  20. Here’s the deal: Aldon Smith has averaged nearly 1 sack a game for every game he’s played in the NFL.

    That gives you a VERY, very long leash in what you can get in trouble for and not get suspended, released and, if anything, signed to a new contract.

    It’s the business of the NFL. If you’re the star QB, RB, WR and/or one of the cornerstones of the defense, you can pretty much get away with anything that a normal person would be serving many years in jail for.

    If anything, the 49ers better hope the Kapernick thing isn’t as bad as A.Smith. Especially when you’re trying to make an $18M/yr decision on your franchise QB.

  21. off the field issues is not the same thing as getting caught cheating like half of the Seahawks defense has. comparison is not even close. I’d be more embarrassed if I was caught cheating than some minor off the field issues. Not like he killed a man (Ray Lewis).

  22. It’s called “coach speak”, and EVERY coach does it. Kind of like what “Pete the Cheat” says when he talks of leaving USC.

    You know it, I know it, and so does everyone else. Sometimes, the articles written on this site are like gossip pages.

    And no, that wasn’t a 49ers fan who threw stuff at Bowman as he was carted off the field-nice try though.

  23. @lutch57, a little bit of popcorn (not food) as well. It also could be that it was spilled rather than thrown. Happens when people lean over the railing.

    Let’s compare that with niner fans stabbing other fans in the candlestick park area before you get all high and mighty.

    Do you think that is a good comparison?

    I actually don’t think that is what ALL niner fans are like and you should not believe ALL Seahawk fans are a certain way either based on what a few do.

  24. Is smoking pot an “off the field issue” like alcohol? if so, then name one current Seahawk who was suspended for PEDs – not pot, PEDs.

    Don’t try and deflect the FACT that the whiners lead the league in arrests and criminal investigations. Be a man and face up to it – your team is full of idiots. Including the HC and GM.

  25. bassnw, we do have 1 active Seahawk that missed 4 games at the start of last season.

    Bruce Irvin

    However the niners have a player that tested positive about the same time Browner and Sherman were testetd. Eric Wright.

    So the teams are equal, Harbaugh never came down on Eric Wright in spite of his comment.

  26. Harbaugh’s quote is about PED use. The complete quote is that they should be “above reproach” ..”especially if you are good so no one can come back and say, hey it’s because you cheated”. The Aldon situation does not apply. He was stupid – but he’s not a cheater.

  27. @snoqualmkanem Keep trying to convince yourself of that. Harbaugh can’t fix stupid but Carroll is most certainly involved with a string of PED use. PED is actually cheating – being stupid is just being stupid.

  28. Jim Harblaahh,is finished,in SF,this will be his last year,he will move on and try his pitch “Who’s got it better” in Dallas.

  29. How is his statement any different now? Harbaugh still “wants” to be above reproach. Doesn’t mean its gonna happen all the time. But hey at least he ain’t cheating… Repeatedly.

  30. tanstewie says:
    Apr 14, 2014 5:53 PM

    its funny to me that people will suggest cutting him for suspending him. In a situation like this it appears obvious that the guy has an alcohol problem. Why not tell him that he can’t play or practice or work out with the team until he completes a 30 or 60 or 90 day treatment program. If he refuses then cut him. Wouldnt that benefit everybody involved ? The NFL seems to be completely in the dark when it comes to assisting its players (and owners) deal with dependency issues.

    tanstewie … It is called “A Union”

  31. Ronfai, others give credit to Harbaugh by saying he can’t control what his players do 100% of the time. I give the same credit to Pete Carroll.
    Until it is proven that he knew or assisted in supplying PED’s to the Seahawks I’ll believe him innocent.
    Same thing with Harbaugh and any other coach.

    You on the other hand, want to convict PC without a trial or any evidence.

    Which is the more common sense approach?

    Go ahead and say that I am trying to convince myself of that. Now admit that the what the niner players do is out of Harbaugh’s control.

    Proof on the other hand is in the pudding.

    Eric Wright was punished for PED use around the same time as Browner and Sherman. That part is an undeniable fact.

    Harbaugh did nothing to Eric Wright, he not only did nothing to Aldon Smith, he actually had him play the weekend following the LAST incident.

    So Harbaugh isn’t backing up his own words.

    That is all fact, not unproven allegations that Seahawk/Pete Carroll haters want to use against them.

  32. 49ers’ insider Ray Ratto joins Erik Kuselias to talk about the reaction to Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick’s legal troubles. Ratto believes Jed York needs to step up.
    Report: Lockette told police “completely naked” woman wouldn’t leaveApril 14, 2014, 6:27 PM EDTAldon Smith puts Jim Harbaugh’s “above reproach” stance to the testApril 14, 2014, 5:33 PM EDTChris Culliver pleads not guilty to hit-and-run, brass knuckles chargesApril 14, 2014, 4:16 PM EDTNo formal charges yet against Aldon SmithApril 14, 2014, 3:11 PM EDTPFT Live: 49ers in a state of crisis?April 14, 2014, 2:46 PM EDTReport: Aldon Smith was red-flagged for trouble before draftedApril 14, 2014, 1:44 PM EDTPFT Live: 49ers talk with Matt Maiocco, PFT Planet calls and tweetsApril 14, 2014, 11:30 AM EDTAaron Colvin visiting teams despite torn ACLApril 14, 2014, 11:29 AM EDTAldon Smith released from custody after posting $20,000 bailApril 14, 2014, 7:04 AM EDTPolice officer says Aldon Smith appeared to have been drinking earlier in the dayApril 13, 2014, 9:44 PM EDT49ers haven’t decided to pick up the fifth-year option on Aldon SmithApril 13, 2014, 9:02 PM EDT49ers “disappointed to learn” of Aldon Smith incident at LAXApril 13, 2014, 7:29 PM EDTAldon Smith reportedly detained by police at LAXApril 13, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT

  33. snoqualmkanem: “.. others give credit to Harbaugh by saying he can’t control what his players do 100% of the time”

    Are you kidding me? Are you reading the same responses I’m reading? In fact the very point of this article is to suggest there’s responsibility to be had on merit of his comment.

    It makes no sense, as you or any logical person can easily gather that a coach can’t keep people from doing stupid stuff off the field in their own time.

    I don’t have any evidence Peet dolled out PEDs to his players, but the evidence on hand COULD suggest that the Seattle program is responsible for a rash of negative test findings for their players. I would expect ANY system to be far more concerned with findings like that as opposed to an ill-timed rash of bad-behavior in the off season. I would EXPECT harbaugh to man up and take responsibility if his players were caught CHEATING. And the reality is the quote is about that, and not about anything else.

    I stand by comment that Harb’s quote was taken out of context and not applicable to this. If any 49ers are caught cheating while ON the 49ers program (don’t care about Wright) – then I expect Harbs to man up and take responsibility.

  34. People keep going on about Seattle’s players cheating. Personally I would rather have a guy that got busted for using Adderal on my team than a guy with all the troubles that Smith is having.

    Also, I wonder how many players on the 49ers have a prescription and league waiver for Adderal. Would be interesting to see.

  35. snoqualmkanem: I should point out that 49ers sent Aldon to rehab for 5 weeks which is far more discipline than Seattle has shown. ALL Seattle discipline was league enforced. Niners had no league enforced suspensions recently. There’s really no comparing – cheating is far worse than anything that’s happened to the Niners last few weeks.

  36. @jiminauburn. The reason is comes up because this article references the quote from Harbaugh that was a response to the rash of PED suspensions going on in Seattle. It’s directly related.

    No Niner fan is happy at all about what Smith is doing – he’s a grossly talented dude who’s seemingly throwing it away over bad judgement.

    But until Niners are actually caught cheating – please store the quote and groundless arguments of unfair perception of Seachicken players vs. 49ers players.

  37. Bad incidents for 9ers to be sure, but is it cheating like the SeaPeds! Obviously, the “above reproach” comments related to how SeaAdderal was winning. The 9ers are becoming the 2010s version of the 1970s Raiders.

  38. Ronfai, I think that is my point. (I believe you took my statement out of context). I don’t believe Harbaugh has any direct control over what his players do off the field. So the same should be said for Pete Carroll.
    The Niners have had no league enforced discipline. True statement, however after the fact, it appears that the league should have done SOMETHING more than they did.

    The niner coach, Jim Harbaugh has made a statement that he wants players to be “above reproach”. He was replying specifically to PED accusations applied to the Seahawks. However it is a logical jump that he doesn’t want his players to have various levels of brushes with the law.
    When he actually is confronted with the same situation (Eric Wright) he does nothing.
    When he is confronted with a similar situation (Aldon Smith) he lets him play a game before he enters rehab.
    So BY HIS OWN WORDS, he does not follow what he preaches.
    Seattle has not had the need to enforce further penalties because it was already handled by the league.
    Many people feel the league was wrong in the penalty handed out to Browner.
    Feel free to name anything that has happened in the last two years to a Seahawk that wasn’t already handled by the NFL.
    As you yourself admit, you have no evidence against Pete Carroll… so give it a break until some type of evidence does appear.
    Oh… one last thing. Currently the Seahawks and the Niners have the same amount of players on the team that have served suspensions for either drug use or PED use. (Two different categories). Niners have Eric Wright and the Seahawks have Bruce Irvin.
    Now regarding legal issues.
    Seahawks have one (Lockette), Niners on the other hand have several. CK, Chris Culliver, Quinton Patton, Aldon Smith, (multiple issues for Aldon Smith).
    I hope you can see the difference between the two teams. Seattle looking much less “out of control” than San Francisco.
    PS, I don’t believe that anything will come of the incident in Miami, I have to wonder why they let themselves get put in the position they did. Allowing her to use pot, makes me think that they had more to do with it than we know or will ever know.

  39. Laughable. If Smith is not suspended by the 49ers, that shows the level of commitment to doing what is right vs doing anything to win. Quantity or quality is what I see here.

    If they did care about him as a person, they would suspend him immediately until he could show himself to be responsible and in recovery. Regardless of the talent. What does having him actively on the roster show the rest of the players on the team and in the league.

    But we already know what the 49ers will do. You see the good teams stop, drop and roll when it comes to handling things like this.. Then there is the 49ers enabling the weak and committed to chaos in hopes of winning.

    Good luck with that

  40. “ronfai says:
    But until Niners are actually caught cheating – please store the quote and groundless arguments of unfair perception of Seachicken players vs. 49ers players.”

    Now you are just pure D wrong. Crimes against society are by definition worse than breaking the rules of a football game, no matter how much we love football, people go to jail for crimes against society but they don’t go to jail for cheating.

    We don’t know for 100% certainty what type of PED’s were used. IF ( a big if ) it was indeed Adderall, I don’t really see it as a PED and I believe that the NFL will change the category on it. It doesn’t provide more muscle or make anybody faster. All it does is improve concentration. The only difference between the people busted for Adderall and a lot of the other NFL players is that they didn’t bother getting a prescription.
    Adderall is used by a large number of NFL players legally.

  41. ctiggs says: Apr 14, 2014 5:44 PM

    Please just let the season begin #goNiners #NoOnehasitbetter

    No one has it better? I think all the teams who have actually won the Super Bowl (or multiple Super Bowls) in the last 20 years have it better.

  42. Niners fans: Your blowhard coach promised to be above reproach “in EVERYTHING you do.” Everything. There’s a cliche about stones and glass houses that comes to mind. You get to live with his glaring hypocrisy. And we get to laugh in your face because your moralizing coach walked into an obvious trap.

  43. Hmmmm…… I love hearing the argument that taking adderal is worse than being a criminal. I’m as pissed as anyone when the drug suspensions were happening but let’s be real. You got menaces to society down there in San Fran. Culliver, smith, brooks and maybe Kap have all committed actual crimes.

  44. ctiggs says: Apr 14, 2014 5:44 PM

    Please just let the season begin #goNiners #NoOnehasitbetter

    No one has it better? I think all the teams who have actually won the Super Bowl (or multiple Super Bowls) in the last 20 years have it better.

    2014-1994 = 20

  45. I know you are trying to cover the organization Ranfai but 49ers didn’t sent him to rehab it was an option by the court to escape his DWI. Your team still caters to the criminals.

  46. I gotta say, as a Washington resident this is by far my favorite rivalry (Seahawks vs 49ers). But you guys treat each other like the other is the worst fanbase in the league. Have the Jets as a rival for a few seasons and get back to me, because they’re the absolute WORST. Inflated ego even coming off of mediocre to bad seasons and no signs of improving.

    Otherwise, I can’t wait to watch the Hawks vs 9ers two more times (at least) next season. It’s like two superbowls a year.

  47. To the 49er fans trying to defend Harbaugh’s quote he said he wants his team to be “above reproach on everything”. You don’t think he was talking about the standard of class the organization had in the 80’s and early 90’s? This team is far from it and not even winning.

    Face it this off-season the 49ers felonies/crimes have turned your team into sideshow and a running joke. You think when people think legal troubles in NFL they are going to still think Bengals? 49ers took that torch with Al. Smith alone last year.

  48. His actual quote is “we want to try to be above reproach” as in try, not we are. Oh and Wright was a member of Tampa when he popped for PED use so how again should Harbaugh have punished him? This argument of which is worse is kinda funny. Their both not good, seems to be splitting hairs here.

  49. First of all let me preface what I’m about to say by stating that the CBA will almost make it impossible for the Niners to cut Aldon Smith this season.

    That said, I think the organization has to move on at this point, As a Niner fan I am consistently impressed by Aldon’s talent, but his off the field behavior and addictions make him a liability, and sadly for him he probably cost himself 30-40 million dollars with this instance adding on to his pending court appearances.

    so, after 6-8 games missed due to suspension and playing out the rest of the season for SF, there is no way the 49ers can re-sign him.

  50. If the 49ers are going to pathetic and not discipline him then I hope the commissioner steps in and suspends him. His acts and tirades have gone on long enough.

  51. And Ahmad Brooks…and Chris Culliver…and Eric Wright…and Delanie Walker….and Colin Kaepernick…and Quinton Patton….dude, the “Above Reproach” thing was debunked a long time ago. Where you been?

  52. I am a Seahawk fan. So base your opinion of my input on that information I guess.

    If the 49ers have a few players, (and it is only a few), that screwed up at different times that is NOT a reflection on the organization. The players are adults and they are responsible for their actions. The team is a business and they are responsible for the product they put on the field and the cost of that product versus the revenues that product generates.

    Kapaernick is not found guilty of anything yet. Everything we hear and read is pure speculation.

    Aldon Smith is a troubled young man who has severe emotional issues that must be dealt with. It isn’t his coach’s fault the guy can’t control alcohol.

    Harbaugh, like him or not, is paid money to coach. He coaches pretty competitively too. He wants to win. He has some big time assets available to him and he uses them as he sees fit to accomplish that goal. If he was at 8-8 he’d be fired (unless he was in Dallas or Minnesota). But his team has been very successful. So give him a break.

    Pete Carroll isn’t repsonsible for his players taking PEDS. This is a situation that is also speculative but is probably related to guys saying “these things worked for me why not try them guys?”

    Both coaches have high performing players who may or may not be emotional problem children. The coaches are not pastors or substance abuse coordinators.

    Because of league rules 49ers are not going to cut Smith unless they absolutely have to. Why give him away to another team?

    The league would have to say, leave him alone and no team can touch him. The league won’t do that because he isn’t yet guilty of a damn thing in court. But if he does get convicted then he’ll have to be suspended. The league has to be the enforcer because the teams just cannot do that self policing because they are businesses.

    Walk a mile in Harbaugh’s shoes and many of us would sing a different tune.

  53. Oh heck then Alden shouldn’t be punished. After all he “tried” to stop drinking.

    In fact Thurmond shouldn’t have been suspended. He “tried” not to get caught with the 420 in his system.

    In fact Krap should be handed a ring. I assume he “tried” to score BS the Ravens.

    I’m glad you cleared this up.

  54. I doubt they’ll cut him because he’s too good of a player and another team WILL pick him up. Aldon Smith is a 49ers problem right now, but overall this is a league problem. A group of young men that have been adored by others because of athletic ability most of their lives. Now they have millions of dollars and months at a time where they have nothing to do but party, spend their earnings, and work out every once in a while. Some guys just aren’t responsible enough to handle that. I’ve wondered how often guys get away with terrible things because they are pro athletes and we never hear a thing about it.

  55. JH’s angry demeanor and immaturity are not a good example to his players. Trent Balke should fire him and move on. If he doesn’t the niner players will continue to be the scourge of the NFL.

  56. Why can’t you hold a player accountable without cutting him from the team? If he cuts the guy he is taking the easy way out and bailing on him and if he keeps him he is a hypocrite. No win. Plus the decisions are not Harbaugh’s alone. Just keeping it real.

  57. “Because of league rules 49ers are not going to cut Smith unless they absolutely have to. Why give him away to another team?

    The league would have to say, leave him alone and no team can touch him. ”

    Actually when a player is suspended from playing, it doesn’t matter which team.
    Browner is suspended from 4 games and his new team can’t play him until that suspension is over.

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