The San Francisco 49ers will have to play more than half the regular season without one of the game's dominant pass rushers.
The NFL announced Friday it has suspended 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith for the first nine games of the season following multiple off-field incidents that violated the league's substance abuse and personal conduct policies.
A person with knowledge of the process, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Smith's representatives and the league reached a settlement that allows him to be at the team facility and in meetings during his suspension.
The suspension didn't come down until Friday because talks were ongoing, the person said, and the final sticking point was whether the ban would be eight or nine games – four games for the substance-abuse violation and either four or five for personal conduct.
"Our organization has known this decision would come and we have prepared for it as a team," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement issued through the team.
"Aldon has taken responsibility for his actions and has continued to show growth personally and professionally. We will continue to support him, but it is time to put this matter behind us and focus on the season ahead."
Smith, who has 42 sacks in 43 career regular-season games, will be eligible to return to the 49ers' active roster Nov. 10. Three of the 49ers' six NFC West divisional games are during those first nine games, but Smith will be back for both matchups with the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
The 49ers also will start the season without standout linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list as he recovers from knee reconstruction surgery, meaning he'll be out until at least Week 7.
Smith, 24, pleaded no contest in May to three felony charges of possessing illegal assault rifles and misdemeanor DUI, stemming from separate incidents in 2012 and 2013. He was sentenced last month to 235 hours of community service and three years of probation and will spend 11 Mondays on a sheriff's work crew.
Smith also was arrested in April after an incident at Los Angeles International Airport after he allegedly made a bomb threat, but no criminal charges were brought.
The DUI arrest Sept. 20 – two days before the 49ers hosted a game against the Indianapolis Colts – was Smith's second since he entered the NFL, though the charge from a January 2012 incident was reduced to reckless driving because he qualified for a diversion program.
Smith played in the Colts game but missed the next five while seeking treatment for substance-abuse issues. As with most first-time offenders, the NFL waited to mete out discipline until the legal process had run its course.
The 49ers open the season at Dallas on Sept. 7.