Goodell is expected to make a decision on disciplinary action against Smith in the next week or two. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and CSN Bay Area have both reported that the 49ers are preparing for a suspension of six to eight games. Smith would likely appeal with the hope of getting that reduced.
Smith was sentenced to 11 days of work release last week in a Santa Clara County (California) court after his September 2013 arrest for drunken driving. It was his second such arrest since entering the NFL in 2011. Also, Smith had three felony gun charges knocked down to misdemeanors last week.
Some storylines to follow if Smith receives a long suspension:
Hole on defense: The 49ers’ defense will be without inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for about half the season as he recovers from a torn ACL, and they might be without nose tackle Glenn Dorsey because of a torn biceps muscle. Add the exclusion of Smith for a large chunk and one of the NFL's finest defenses will be greatly challenged. Smith has 42 sacks in 43 NFL games. He’d be greatly missed.
Youngsters in spotlight: Dan Skuta started in place of Smith on Thursday night and for five games when Smith was in a rehab center last year. Skuta certainly would be in the mix. But second-year player Corey Lemonier, who played a lot when Smith was out last year, has looked good. He played a team-high 70 snaps in Baltimore on Thursday night. Also, fifth-round pick Aaron Lynch could get some looks as well. Lynch has been dinged up, but has big potential.
No wiggle room: If Smith gets into further trouble, he could be getting into the territory of missing an entire season. The 49ers have stressed to him that his troubled days must be behind him. A big hit by Goodell would reinforce that notion.