SANTA CLARA (AP) – Aldon Smith wants all San Francisco 49ers fans and teammates to know he’s sorry for two off-the-field incidents since last season ended that threatened to derail his life and career.
In his first public comments since he was stabbed at his home last month, Smith said Friday that “letting everybody down was probably the saddest part.” He also was charged in late January with driving under the influence in Miami Beach.
Smith said he had staples inserted to close the stab wounds and he’s now fully recovered and won’t miss any time in training camp. He declined to elaborate on the incident or his injuries.
“I just feel after the incidents that happened and the expectations that were set for me, I feel like I let the fans and everybody that looked at me like that down,” Smith said before the team’s first training camp practice in the afternoon. “It’s helped my focus out. I’m really focused more than ever, not to say that I wasn’t in the beginning. But I’m focused more than ever and I’m ready to go.”
Smith was drafted seventh overall last year and racked up a franchise-rookie record 14 sacks – best among NFL rookies – to go with two forced fumbles. He finished runner-up to Denver’s Von Miller for The Associated Press’ NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Converted from a defensive end out of Missouri, Smith piled up highlights next to All-Pros Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman at a remarkable rate. After all, he never started once – something that’s expected to change this season as he continues to blossom.
So when Smith was stabbed twice at his San Jose home during a party June 29, the incident raised concerns at 49ers headquarters. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he has spoken with Smith about the transgressions but will keep the conversations they’ve had private.
Smith enters his second year with another added twist.
The 22-year-old is working to be more than just a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme this offseason. The demanding shift requires more smarts and athleticism than anything the linebacker did as a rookie, and it’s a hurdle he knows he has to clear if he ever wants to be considered a Pro Bowl talent.
The 6-foot-4, 258-pounder is adjusting to chasing running backs and receivers in hopes of being an every down player – and a starter – for a defensive unit that propelled resurgent San Francisco to a 13-3 regular season and an overtime loss in the NFC championship game to the New York Giants. He’s hoping to play a bigger role for a team considered a strong Super Bowl contender.
Now he’s also hoping not to miss any more time.
“You just got to be aware of everything around you. I just got to make better decisions and surround myself with good people,” Smith said. “You definitely think about what happened, and how you want to be perceived and how you want your career to go.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.)