The decision of the Raiders to sign linebacker Aldon Smith came as a surprise to many teams, because it was assumed in the aftermath of Smith’s August arrest that he’d be suspended sooner than later.
He hasn’t been, but he eventually could be.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the NFL currently is reviewing Smith’s case under the substance-abuse policy. The DUI charge pending against Smith has become the focal point of the review.
Although he could be considered a repeat offender under the Personal Conduct Policy, the charges of vandalism and hit-and-run won’t create any significant problems because the accusations don’t involve violence against a person, according to the source.
A separate question for Smith arises from the possibility that he was consuming alcohol in violation of his treatment plan under the substance-abuse program. If Smith is in Stage 3 of the program, any deviation from his treatment plan could subject him to a one-year suspension, even without a failed alcohol test.
From Smith’s perspective, there was no reason to keep waiting for the league to act, because not signing with the Raiders or another team (and a separate source tells PFT that the Bucs and Jaguars offered roughly twice as much money as the Raiders did) would have operated as a de facto suspension. So Smith signed the deal, and he’ll be able to play unless and until the NFL imposes a suspension.
He’ll then be able to play while his appeal rights are fully pursued. Under the new substance-abuse policy that was finalized last September, appeals go to neutral arbitration.
It’s also possible that Smith and the NFL could negotiate a suspension, which would be imposed without exhaustion of appeal rights.
Either way, Smith remains free to play either until he agrees to a suspension or until a suspension is imposed and his appeal ends.