This is good for Aldon Smith.

Assuredly, the nine-game suspension handed down by the NFL on Friday doesn't feel good. For Smith, for the 49ers, or the fans.

The team's pass rush specialist will miss more than half the season thanks to commissioner Roger Goodell's stern ruling. When you consider the 49ers also will be without injured All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman, this is a huge blow for the defense.

But this is good for Smith. He needs some tough love.

This isn't about the commissioner's inconsistency. The randomness of his penal practices is certainly worthy of criticism.

Going hard on Smith doesn't make up for the two-game suspension levied against Baltimore running back Ray Rice; it makes that ruling look even weaker.

And allowing Smith to be around the team during his suspension after rejecting such requests from Cleveland receiver Josh Gordon, suspended for a year, makes Goodell look subject to politics and favoritism.

But the worst thing Goodell could have done, for Smith's sake, would be to go light on the 49ers' star defender.

He's been granted leniency before. He's gotten help before. Compassion and grace have been extended before. It's time to see if actual consequences straighten him out.

As a professional athlete, Smith needs to learn he is not above the law. The reach of his money and connections, the demand for his talent, can serve as enablers.


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As a grown man, especially an African-American, he's got to own the responsibility of striving for exemplary behavior. Professionalism doesn't end when the pads are off and avoiding crime isn't a feat.

As a player, he needs to see how his behavior negatively impacts his teammates. He might cost the 49ers some wins, which could cost them in playoff seeding, which could hurt their Super Bowl hopes.

But this crossroad was reached probably because Smith has avoided consequence for so long. Who knows? If he's forced to miss last year's big game against the Colts immediately after getting a DUI, maybe the lesson is learned then. Maybe if he was actually suspended before instead of missing five games to enter rehab, during which he was paid and controlled his return, he already would have been forced to come to grips with reality.

But he wasn't. So it needed to happen now.

If the NFL really is about helping Smith, if it really is about protecting the integrity of the shield, then this was the right way to go. A lengthy suspension will help him much more than patience has. There is no greater soul-searching than that prompted by not being able to maneuver your way out of situations. That's what Smith needs.

His track record suggests he's a bit hardheaded. So a hard lesson is in order.

He was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence in 2012. Five months later, he hosted a house party at which he was stabbed and two other people were shot. The incident led to felony weapons charges against Smith over a year later.

In 2013, he was in a car accident and arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. Seven months later, he was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for inappropriate behavior with TSA.

Through it all, Smith's punishment has been 11 days of work release and five games missed because of voluntary rehab. The charges always get dropped or relaxed. He regrets his action just enough to work hard enough to earn mercy.

Yet, he keeps getting in trouble. Somebody needs to hold him accountable. The NFL did right to teach Smith the painful lessons about being responsible. Remorse and effort can't always be his trump card.

Sometimes, being disciplined is the necessary recourse. Sometimes, it takes the penalty to fully comprehend the gravity.

Everything else has been tried on Smith, with limited success. It's good the NFL didn't give him an easy out.

Read Marcus Thompson II's blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/thompson. Contact him at mthomps2@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ThompsonScribe.

Smith
Nine-game suspension a blow to defense but should help linebacker mature.

Smith
Nine-game suspension a blow to defense but should help linebacker mature.

ON A1
Aldon Smith suspended nine games.

ONLINE EXTRA
49ers shouldn't have been surprised by length of ban says Tim Kawakami at www.blogs.mercurynews.com/
kawakami.