Linebacker Aldon Smith #99 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles running back Aaron Williams #23 of the Buffalo Bills (Courtesy: Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS - Though he hasn't added to it lately, Aldon Smith brings a big sack total to Super Bowl XLVII. The San Francisco 49ers linebacker also comes with baggage no player wants -- from multiple off-the-field incidents the past year.
Monday, about seven months after Smith escaped a party gone bad with minor stab wounds, it was disclosed by Coach Jim Harbaugh that he had been voted the 49ers' season MVP by players and coaches.
Smith is an All-Pro is his second NFL season. As a player, the sky is the limit for the 6-foot-4, 258-pounder. What has he done about the kinds of difficulties that might threaten that?
"I really just kept my goals in mind and the guy I want to be and the great player I want to be and how I want to be viewed," the 23-year-old said from a press conference platform at the 49ers' hotel.
"I'm a football player. I'm a guy who works hard. And I want everybody to know that."
Last June 30, police reported two men had been shot and one stabbed, all non-life threatening injuries, during a house party east of San Jose, Calif.
Police didn't identify the victims. But The Sacramento Bee reported Smith had been stabbed twice at his home. In a statement after the incident, 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke said Smith "suffered minor injuries during an incident last night."
There have been no arrests.
"Unfortunately, we never identified any suspects," says Sgt. Jose Cardoza, spokesman for the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office. " ... It's probably what you would call an inactive case. It's not closed. It's just inactive pending any new information that ever develops."
Police still have not named the victims. But when the 49ers opened training camp in July, Smith made an apology when he met with reporters.
"I feel like I let the fans and everybody that looked at me like that down," Smith said then. " ... I'm really focused more than ever."
Smith, the No. 7 pick in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, also was arrested last January in Miami Beach on a drunken driving charge, later reduced to reckless driving under a first-time offender's program.
In September, he suffered a small cut above his eye when he was a passenger in a car that crashed when it swerved to avoid deer near San Jose, according to police. Two days later, he had 1.5 sacks against the Detroit Lions.
In November, Smith went on Twitter to deny he'd been attacked while on a bye week visit to Missouri. "Want to clear up rumors of me getting jumped, I'm ok and doing well!" he tweeted.
The 49ers' hotel is close to Bourbon Street and a casino. Smith says it's a business trip.
"We're coming here to win the game. ... So everyone's been responsible and doing the right thing," he said.
Last season, he set a 49ers rookie record with 14 sacks as a third-down specialist. In the first 13 games as a starter this season, he had 19.5 sacks. The season record of 22.5 sacks by Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2002 looked within reach.
But in the 49ers' 14th game against the New England Patriots, right defensive end Justin Smith suffered a torn triceps tendon in his left arm. He ties up blockers in Pro Bowl fashion in the 49ers' 4-3 defense. He missed the last two regular season games and returned for the playoffs wearing a brace.
In his past five games, three in regular season and two in postseason, Smith has zero sacks. But he said he's been taking on multiple blockers and benefitting the team that way.
"I'm getting a lot of doubles, I'm getting a lot of triples, but I'm doing a lot of other things. I'm creating a lot of pressure," he said.
And he is winner of this season's Bill Walsh Award, named after the late coach, as team MVP.
"You've got guys that are on this team that are all-stars. ... And I come in my second year and I get the MVP, it means a lot," said Smith.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman on Smith: "We're human, man. We're not perfect. We're going to make mistakes, just as you are. ... Aldon's just done a great job of answering every bell. ... He stepped up to the task and (has) been playing the way that we expect him to play."
Harbaugh on the award: "Aldon has had a tremendous year for us, tremendous two years. ... I think that (MVP) speaks volumes for the kind of impact that he had on our team."
And what has Smith have learned from his off-the-field issues?
"You've got to make better decisions, really," he said.
By Gary Mihoces