San Francisco 49ers have been dealt a huge blow today with the announcement that star outside linebacker Aldon Smith has been banned by the NFL for nine games.
The ban for the sack specialist is a result of a cocktail of misdemeanours that will leave San Francisco 49ers fans both angry and saddened.
Cocktail of problems
According to reports, Aldon Smith's nine-game NFL suspension is a result of a unique combination of substance abuse and personal conduct policy breaches.
Although he will miss the majority of the regular season, he can return to his 49ers team by November 10th.
NFL insider Chris Mortensen reported on Twitter, "Aldon Smith's 9 game suspension was unique combination of substance abuse and personal conduct policies. Can return to team Nov 10."
The struggle begins
In the last few seasons, such a ban for a key player on the 49ers' defense would not have been such a terrible thing. That is because their defense has been full of talent for so long.
But this year linebacker Navorro Bowman is coming off a terrible knee injury, and a poor performing offense will put even more pressure on the Niner's stout defense. Add into the fact that both World Champions Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals will push them hard in the NFC West, and losing one of their top players for the majority of the regular season is certainly not something 49ers fans would have wanted.
When did it all go wrong?
In the long-term though, things might turn out better for both Aldon Smith and the San Francisco 49ers. Coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers franchise have shown their faith in Smith despite his issues, and they may be rewarded down the line if the talented 24-year-old successfully turns his life around.
Everything started to go wrong for Smith when he was arrested for DUI back in 2012. He followed that up in 2013 with a charge for being in illegal possession of an assault weapon.
Add to that an arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana and an arrest for claiming he had a bomb, and you can see why a stay in a rehab facility will most likely be Aldon Smith's next port of call.
The pressure is on
The length of the ban may surprise some fans and it leaves San Francisco in a tough position going forward.
In the off-season, coach Jim Harbaugh's position came into question, and now one of their star players has been suspend for nine games, can things get much worse for 49ers fan?
If ever there's a team primed for a down year, it has to be the 49ers. But don't rule them out just yet. Three straight trips to the NFC Championship Game tells you that much.