Off-field issues a troubling sign for 49ers 

click to enlarge Aldon Smith
  • Jeff Chiu/ap
  • Aldon Smith was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Sunday, the latest in a disturbing string of off-field incidents involving 49ers players.
Are the 49ers an NFL team or a halfway house? The episodes in the last few days make me wonder.

Linebacker Aldon Smith was the latest bad story as he reportedly got impatient with the pre-flight routine at LAX on Sunday and told a TSA agent he had a bomb. Omigawd. He did not, of course, but his outburst caused him to be arrested.

Smith seems to have a screw loose somewhere. He’s already been arrested twice previously on DUI charges and is facing three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon stemming from a party at his home where shots were fired and he was stabbed. He’s pleaded not guilty on all charges.

Cornerback Chris Culliver also pleaded not guilty to hit-and-run charges and felony possession of brass knuckles after he allegedly hit a bicyclist. Culliver also said before the 2013 Super Bowl that he would not want to play with a gay teammate (he later recanted).

Of course, there was also the Colin Kaepernick incident when Kaepernick and two friends — teammate Quinton Patton and Seattle Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette — were in a Miami suite with a woman who later found herself in a hospital with no memory of what had happened, although apparently Kaepernick had undressed her at the apartment. Kaepernick immediately took to Twitter to say that reports of what had happened were false and that he takes great pride in who he is and what he does. Hard to know what part of that episode made him proud.

Of the three players, Smith has the biggest problem. He has a team option on his contract for the 2015 season worth $9.75 million that the 49ers must decide to pick up by May 3, which will be a tough call for the 49ers. It’s quite possible that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will suspend Smith. His NFL career is in serious jeopardy.

All of this means the Niners will have to adjust their draft plans. For openers, they’ll have to look for a pass rusher because it’s doubtful they’ll have Smith for a substantial part of the season, if at all. They already were looking at cornerbacks because of hits they’ve taken in free agency, and the possibility they might lose Culliver for an extended period makes that more urgent.

And they have to look for a quarterback they could groom.

Despite his obvious athletic ability, Kaepernick does not look like the long-term answer. His off-field behavior is looking more like his on-field, a lot of slap and dash with not much thought about it.

A quarterback for a team which has been in the Super Bowl and one game away from it twice needs to show maturity on and off the field. Instead, Kaepernick has played with a bravado that forces him to try to make impossible plays, throwing three times into triple coverage to end the 49ers’ hopes in Super Bowl XLVII and then challenging Richard Sherman in the NFC Championship this year on a play which resulted in a season-ending interception.

And lest you excuse him because of youth, Kaepernick was 26 last season. Joe Montana was 25 when he won his first Super Bowl. Can you imagine Montana or Steve Young being mentioned in a police report?

The 49ers need to start looking at the characters of the players they draft, not just their physical abilities.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on Email him at

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Glenn Dickey

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