Dieter Kurtenbach: Aldon Smith is not a redemption story … yet

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I knew Aldon Smith when we were both at the University of Missouri.

When he was a teenager who didn’t know that he was superhuman.

When he wore a perpetual smile and constantly aimed to please. I never met the Aldon Smith that played in the NFL. To this day, I’m glad I didn’t.

Something changed in those years with the 49ers and Raiders, where substance abuse and mental struggles overwhelmed even the most undeniable talents. It overwhelmed what I continue to believe is the real Aldon Smith.

But after four years away, Smith is back in the NFL, having agreed to a one-year, $4 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday.

For the time being, I’m refusing to write up any redemption story.

The defensive end still needs to be reinstated by the league. Given his rap sheet, I don’t know if that’s going to happen.

He also needs to make the Cowboys roster. He’s reportedly in shape and at age 30, but after so long away, who knows if he can still cut it in the NFL.

We’ve also danced to this song before. The steps might have changed, but it’s unquestionably the same music.

Yes, Smith was contrite in his public statement Wednesday night. And yes, that’s a positive sign. But comments and statements don’t mean much anymore.

The sporting world was right to write off Smith — you can only gaslight everyone for so long. You can only waste so many opportunities.

Smith needs to prove that he’s changed through consistency in his actions.

Not to prove the sports world wrong, either. Again, no one expects anything from him anymore.

No, at this point, Smith needs to prove to himself that he can handle the rigors and pressures of the NFL; that he’s chased away one of the only things in the world more powerful than him — his demons.

The sack numbers don’t matter. If he can stay clean and make a team, then we have a redemption story.

I’m rooting for it, because I still believe the Aldon Smith I knew still exists.

Call me naive — I’m fine with that. But that Aldon Smith — the one I knew way back in the day and was only around for a short time in the NFL — is worth our cheers.


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