Embattled linebacker Aldon Smith inked a new deal with the Oakland Raiders on Friday and could put on the silver and black as early as Sunday.
But the former San Francisco 49er who made headlines last month after being arrested in Santa Clara could face disciplinary action from the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell. Smith could face more than two years in prison for alleged DUI with prior conviction charge as well as hit-and-run and vandalism charges.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie believes Oakland will help develop a new environment that allows Smith to succeed. “The organization is confident that this is an environment where Aldon can and will thrive and have the support, structure and leadership,” he told the Guardian on Friday afternoon.
Others in the Raiders organization were hopeful that Smith could have an immediate impact. The one-year contract is reportedly worth up to $8m.
“Aldon is an extremely talented young player,” said head coach Jack Del Rio in a statement released by the team. “We welcome him to the Raiders family and expect him to bring his best every day and be a great teammate.”
Although Smith had been released by the Niners on 7 August, support for the player was not diminished on Friday as the team continued to prepare for their Monday night game against Minnesota. Smith was suspended last season for nine games, but if he stays out of trouble, “the Raiders will probably get some good value out of him,” ESPN’s Bill Williamson wrote.
Commissioner Roger Goodell’s office did not return calls for comment on the potential of a suspension, which could reduce Smith’s chances to get on the field this season.
“I want everybody to understand this wasn’t a DUI,” Smith told a Bay Area TV station KTVU. “The situation that happened could have been handled differently. I apologize to everybody I did let down and I apologize for how it all played out.”
The 49er organization on Friday overwhelmingly expressed hope for the best for Smith, who struggled to find a footing off the field despite the success on the field. “This organization has tried very hard to help Aldon fight his issues,” the 49ers said in a statement. “Although he is no longer a member of this team, our support and concern for him will continue.”
Despite the overall goodwill from players, Oakland fans may need time to be convinced bringing Smith across the bay was smart. Oakland resident and avid Raiders supporter Isaac Strachan said he was concerned about “character.”
“I really hope he [Smith] proves us all wrong, but right now I don’t really know if the on field skill will out do the horrible crap he’s done and messed up. We will see,” Strachan said.