SANTA CLARA (AP) — San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said Tuesday night that the 49ers plan to keep Aldon Smith beyond this season and indicated the linebacker would like to re-sign with the team.
“We’re going to work hard to make sure that he remains here,” Baalke said.
Smith, who when at his best is one of the game’s top pass-rushers, is entering a contract year after missing the first nine games of 2014 serving an NFL suspension for violations of the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.
“We don’t talk about what we’re doing within negotiations,” Baalke said. “I think he understands, his agent understands what we would like to do, and we’re going to work hard at it. Now when that gets done, if it gets done during the season, I can’t answer that. He knows where we stand and my understanding is he would love to be here, and we would certainly love to keep him here.”
In spring 2014, the 49ers exercised their 2015 option for Smith, but Baalke made it clear they would be no-nonsense regarding his off-field issues. Then this past March, Smith restructured his contract into a more incentive-laden, team-friendly deal that gives the 49ers room if he were to get in legal trouble again.
Smith missed time the previous season to undergo treatment at an inpatient facility following his DUI arrest on Sept. 20, 2013. That November, he pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his home.
Smith was arrested on April 13, 2014, at Los Angeles International Airport. Police said Smith was randomly selected for a secondary screening and became uncooperative with the process, telling a TSA agent that he had a bomb. No charges were filed.
During Tuesday’s first padded practice, Baalke chatted briefly with Smith then offered a fist bump.
“Aldon’s like any young player, he’s growing up, he’s maturing. You see that with a lot of these guys,” Baalke said. “Some of them get themselves in a few more situations that you wish they didn’t.
If you asked them, I think they’d say the same thing. Really pleased with the way he’s handled things, the way he’s working both personally and professionally. I think he’s doing an outstanding job. He’s always been a great teammate. He’s always had an excellent work ethic.”
Baalke, speaking in an impromptu session with reporters at Levi’s Stadium, said bringing back tight end Vernon Davis also is a focus.
“He wants to be here long-term,” Baalke said. “We’re always going to try to keep our own. Sometimes it works, as you’ve seen, sometimes it doesn’t. Vernon and I have had conversations and we’ll leave it at that. But he understands where we are and we certainly understand where he is.”
The 31-year-old Davis managed only 26 receptions for 245 yards and two TDs last year following a 2013 performance that saw him match his career high with 13 touchdown catches.
Davis acknowledged as training camp began last week that he parted ways before last season with an adviser who had been pushing him to seek a new contract.
“I fired that person because he worships money,” Davis said. “That’s not what I worship.”
While Baalke doesn’t know all of the specifics, he has seen Davis’ approach and determination to bouncing back this season under new coach Jim Tomsula.
“Any time they have anything in their life that’s a distraction, it takes away from their ability to focus,” Baalke said. “He’s definitely very focused. He’s a guy that’s had a lot of production here, another guy that’s a very good teammate. I think everyone here would say he’s an excellent member of the community. And it’s been fun to watch.”