The 49ers pass rusher was activated from the non-football injury list Thursday, allowing him to return to practice with the team during its bye week. He's now eligible to play again when San Francisco returns from its off week Nov. 10 against the Carolina Panthers. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday that the 49ersreceived a roster exemption for Smith until Wednesday.
NFL Media columnist Mike Silver reported Thursday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access Kickoff" that it's uncertain if Smith is going to play against the Panthers, according to a high-ranking team source. Silver was told that Smith knows he's going to have to earn his way back onto the field. Smith will not immediately return in his former role. Expect him to be a spot player who will have to work his way back into the lineup.
Smith was in rehab since being placed on the NFI list Sept. 23. He recently left treatment and surrendered to authorities Tuesday night in connection with felony weapons charges, Santa Clara County authorities confirmed to Around The League. Smith was later released on bail.
Smith's legal issues will take time to sort out, as will a potential suspension from the NFL for his new weapons charges. Smith also was arrested in September and later charged with misdemeanor DUI with a special allegation of having a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or above.
Until any punishment arrives, it looks like Smith will help a 49ers defense that is rounding into form. Corey Lemonier played extremely well in place of Smith while he was away from the team. The 49ers' defense, which also has cornerback Eric Wright practicing with the team, looks deeper than ever.