SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Aldon Smith drew a larger-than-anticipated nine-game suspension from the NFL on Friday, a day after commissioner Roger Goodell outlined a stronger stance toward violations of the league’s personal-conduct policy.
Smith, the 49ers’ premier pass rusher and arguably the league’s best, will be eligible to return to the active roster Nov. 10.
He will miss games against the Dallas Cowboys (away, Sept. 7), Chicago Bears (home; Sept. 14), Arizona Cardinals (away; Sept. 21), Philadelphia Eagles (home; Sept. 28), Kansas City Chiefs (home;Oct. 5), St. Louis Rams (away; Oct. 13; home, Nov. 2), Denver Broncos (away; Oct. 19) and New Orleans Saints (Nov. 10).
It’s not immediately known if Smith, a fourth-year veteran, plans to appeal the punishment. He met three weeks ago in New York with Goodell, prior to the Aug. 7 exhibition opener at Baltimore.
The suspension would put him back in time for a Week 11 matchup at the New York Giants on Nov. 16. That’s two games before the 49ers play NFC West rival Seattle twice in the span of three weeks.
General manager Trent Baalke issued a statement in which he neither approves or disagrees with the league’s punishment.
“Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team,” Baalke stated. “Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally.
“We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead.”
Smith missed five games last season — the 49ers won all five — when he voluntarily entered substance-abuse treatment facility following his Sept. 20, drunken-driving accident in San Jose’s Silver Creek neighborhood.
Last month, Smith was sentenced by a Santa Clara County judge to 11 days on a sheriff’s work crew, three years probation and 235 hours of community service. That punishment came after Smith pleaded no contest to illegal weapons possession and drunk driving.
In a letter Thursday to NFL owners, Goodell set forth a stronger policy against domestic violence and sexual assault. He also wrote about other infractions involving weapons offenses and drunken driving.
“In addition to focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault, we will continue to maintain strong policies regarding weapons offenses,” Goodell wrote. “We are similarly working to strengthen our response to impaired driving.
“We have sought — unsuccessfully — for several years to obtain the NFLPA’s agreement to more stringent discipline for DUI, including mandatory deactivation for the game immediately following an arrest and a minimum two-game suspension for a first violation of law. We will continue to press our position on this issue in the hope of securing the union’s agreement.”
Most suspensions for personal-conduct violations have ranged between one and eight games since Goodell became commissioner in 2006. Prior to Smith’s ruling, Goodell recently drew widespread criticism for suspending Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice only two games after a domestic-violence incident.
Goodell apologized in his letter to owners for not taking a harsher stance with Rice, stating: “I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
Three months ago, Arizona Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington received a season-long suspension as a repeat offender of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
On Wednesday, Cleveland Browns wideout Josh Gordon lost his appeal and has been suspended all season. Previously, first-time offenders, which Smith might be, drew one- and three-game suspensions after gun or drunken driving incidents.
Smith’s latest off-field incident did not result in criminal charges.
Smith performed impressively throughout training camp. How good has Smith looked?
“He’s a freak of nature out there,” quarterback Colin Kaepernick said recently. “When you have (left tackle) Joe Staley come back to the huddle during training camp and is like, ‘I’m really not sure how to try to attack him. I just have to try to slow him down.’ So you really can’t block him.”