Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
COLUMBIA, Mo. — A rough summer for Missouri defensive linemen came to a head Friday when Aldon Smith, a Freshman All-American with the Tigers in 2009, was dismissed by the San Francisco 49ers following an arrest for hit-and-run, driving under the influence and vandalism charges.
In July, former Missouri second-team All-Southeastern Conference tackle Sheldon Richardson was charged with resisting arrest in O’Fallon after allegedly driving at speeds up to 143 mph with a 12-year old-boy and a loaded semi-automatic hand gun in the car. The Jets Pro Bowler had been suspended four games less than two weeks earlier for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel addressed the players’ off-field issues after fall camp Saturday.
“First of all, both those guys, we never had any discipline problems” at Missouri, Pinkel said. “Sheldon had some academic issues, but other than that, no discipline problems. None.
“Aldon, never a problem. Ever. And so, Aldon, he’s part of our family. I’m going to get ahold of him this week, and we feel for him. I want him to just get healthy again and get that going. Obviously, it breaks my heart when I hear something like that. I’m praying for him, and hopefully he can get some help to get better.”
Smith, a first-round draft pick in 2011, was released from Santa Clara (Calif.) County Jail at $26,000 bond Friday. He had been arrested twice before on suspicion of drunken driving since entering the NFL. Additionally, in 2012 he faced felony weapons charges, later reduced, and in 2014 was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for claiming to have a bomb during a random screening. He missed five games in 2013 after entering rehab.
Pinkel did not believe Smith and Richardson’s problems were indicative of any larger issue at Missouri.
“It’s not about the program,” Pinkel said. “It’s about my players. I love my players, OK? So we have a bunch of guys playing in the NFL that are doing awesome. We have a bunch of guys on this team that do awesome. And occasionally one or two (players have) things happen, and it’s not the team. It’s not that everything’s awful. It’s not, in any way. And so I care about them. This isn’t about Mizzou football now.
“(Smith and Richardson) were great kids here. They never got in trouble or anything like that. They’re having some problems. People have that. I just want them to get them fixed, so they can have a great life. That’s where I am.”