San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the weekend, when he was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport Sunday for making a false bomb threat.
One of the travelers who witnessed the scene from afar happened to be Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, a centerpiece of the 49ers' defense from 1981-90 whose jersey number was retired in San Francisco after his playing days were over.
Lott didn't realize it was Smith causing the scene at first, but when he did, he became worried for the young pass rusher.
“I felt bad for him,” Lott said, via Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News. “He’s got so much ahead of him as a person. Forget football -- as a person. I’m worried about him as an individual. ... I’m sure that the people that are working with him with the 49ers will do a good job. They have very good people.”
While many people wonder what the latest arrest could mean for Smith's future with the team, Lott recognized Smith as a troubled young man who needs help. The responsibility will ultimately fall back on Smith's shoulders to keep himself in line.
“I’m always amazed because you work so hard to get there [to the NFL],” Lott said. “But once you’re there, you have to figure out how to do more: You have other responsibilities. Now that you’re there, you have to be responsible.”
Smith has been released on $20,000 bail since his arrest, but he could face up to a year in jail for the false bomb threat. Police also believe that alcohol may have been a factor in Smith's actions.
If alcohol was involved, it is a troubling sign given Smith's history of alcohol abuse. He missed a few weeks during the 2013 season after being checked in to a treatment facility, and this newest incident could be a warning that Smith is falling back down that dangerous path.