RENTON, Washington – Aldon Smith declined to answer questions on Saturday about his pending lawsuit in Louisiana or how that might affect his availability with the Seattle Seahawks this season.
“I can’t comment on that at the moment,” he said.
In his first interview since signing with the Seahawks in April, the 31-year-old pass rusher had a lot more to say about his four seasons outside the NFL and his latest opportunity after his comeback last year with the Dallas Cowboys.
“Every day I just try to get better and as long as I keep that mentality and keep learning and developing, I still have no limits,” he said. “I have the feeling that I still have a lot in the tank and that this game still has a lot to offer.”
Smith gets his first chance to prove this to the Seahawks. He didn’t participate in their voluntary offseason program – some of the team’s seasoned players also skipped the bulk of it – and received an excused absence from their mandatory minicamp. Coach Pete Carroll said Smith was able to get into the form he has since then.
With the number 99, which he wore early in his career with league rivals San Francisco 49ers, Smith has been on the field for all three training sessions in Seattle since training camp began and didn’t seem restricted. At the start of training on Thursday, he grabbed a tackle sled, picked it up, and nearly knocked it over.
“He made a good first impression studying,” said coach Pete Carroll. “He’s a very bright boy. … He knows what’s going on in the game, brings us experience and background and all that. He has no problem picking up on things. He’s got a real style. He’s always had this wonderful length and reach and hands and handball, and you can just say he has a strength and power that is really unusual. “
Smith set an NFL record of 33.5 bags in his first two seasons and has 52.5 bags in five seasons.
None of that means he can stay with the Seahawks. He was only guaranteed $ 137,500 for his one-year minimum wage contract. And it’s a potential luxury rather than a necessity, considering how heavily edge-rushed the Seahawks are, including veterans Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, and Kerry Hyder, as well as promising young players like Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson, and LJ Collier.
“It’s going to be very competitive,” said Carroll. “I hope you can already see it. It’ll show. But as soon as we get into the pads, I’ll be curious to see where he stands with it.”
Smith’s pending litigation adds to the uncertainty. He faces potential legal and NFL discipline in April over an alleged second-degree battery in the New Orleans area. Smith was arrested after he was charged with strangling an unconscious man during an argument that began in a coffee shop. According to the WWL-TV police report, Smith had confronted the man with marital problems the man had with one of Smith’s relatives.
Seahawks CEO John Schneider said later in April that the team would “let the legal process run its course.” Smith is due to be indicted on Aug. 24, although that date could be postponed.
The Louisiana incident was the most recent of Smith’s multiple breaches of the law, which included multiple DUI arrests and a domestic violence charge. These and other incidents resulted in the NFL suspending Smith from 2015-19 for violating its guidelines on personal conduct and substance abuse.
Smith was asked what he had learned during his absence.
“This football is an opportunity that a lot of people don’t get and when you have opportunities in life you should make the most of it,” he said. “There are a lot of people who wish they could play this game and I’m glad I just got the chance to do the things I had to do to get mentally right that I was in a Position that when I got back I could be focused and give everything I need to play. “
Smith had five sacks for Dallas in 16 games, three of them in a game against Seattle and all in the first half of the season. He felt he was getting too heavy and has since worked to get back to his preferred weight of around 270 pounds.
“I was pretty fat last year,” he said.
Smith was in a sober dorm in Dallas last season and is now in Seattle. He said his “tremendous support staff” were helping him in his ongoing struggle to stay sober.
“For me it was just making myself vulnerable and ready to trust and rely on [those] People, “he said.” I’ve always had people around, but I’ve always tried to have everything on my shoulders. So it was a big change to let people help me and to accept that help. “
Carroll said Seattle felt comfortable signing Smith after “a lot of homework” and multiple conversations with him. Smith made a positive impression on Seahawk’s defensive coordinator, Ken Norton Jr., when they were both with the Raiders in 2015, which had a huge impact on the decision.
Carroll said Smith demonstrated the vulnerability he was speaking of “by being very open and very direct and saying, ‘And that’s it.’ He didn’t try to cover himself. He didn’t hit any punches and was very up front and it was very refreshing. “
Carroll said it is ultimately up to Smith to stay sober, but the Seahawks will be with him “every step of the way”.
“I want him to do this in the worst possible way, and I want him to get through and do what he has to do, so we’ll give him every opportunity,” Carroll said. “The level of communication is very clear and he was very open with us and he told us when things were more difficult than others and he was open about that and that helped us understand and believe and trust, that he’s working on it, and that “it’s not easy and it’s a lifelong commitment to make.
“We really feel that it makes him stronger, the more we can support him, the more obviously we can be there for him. So that’s really our intention here.”