University of Missouri

Missouri’s Gary Pinkel voices support for Aldon Smith, Sheldon Richardson

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. The Associated Press

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel offered support for embattled former 49ers defensive end Aldon Smith on Saturday when asked about the former Tigers’ star after practice.

“Aldon, he’s part of our family, so I’m going to get a hold of him this week,” Pinkel said. We feel for him, and I want him to just get healthy again and get back going. Obviously, it breaks my heart when I hear something like that. I’m praying for him, and hopefully he can get some help to get better.”

Smith, a Raytown graduate, was arrested Thursday on allegations of drunken driving, hit and run and vandalism.

It was the second high-profile incident to generate headlines in recent weeks involving former Missouri defensive linemen.

Jets defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson was arrested July 14 for multiple traffic violations and resisting arrest, but the story didn’t surface for two weeks.

“First of all, both those guys — we never had any discipline problems,” Pinkel said. “Sheldon had some academic issues, but, other than that, no discipline problems. None. Aldon, never a problem — ever.”

Many view the incidents as something of a black eye for Pinkel’s football program, but he doesn’t see it that way.

“It’s not about the program,” Pinkel said. “It’s about my players. I love my players. … We have a bunch of guys playing in the NFL that are doing awesome. We have a bunch of guys on this team that do awesome. Occasionally, one or two things happen. It’s not the team. It’s not that everything’s awful. It’s not, in any way.”

Pinkel said his primary concern is the health and well-being of Smith and Richardson.

“I care about them,” Pinkel said. “This isn’t about Mizzou football now. They were great kids here and never got in trouble or anything like that. They’re having some problems. People have that, but I just want them to get them fixed, so they can have a great life. That’s where I am.”

Santa Clara (Calif.) police allege that Smith hit a parked car near the luxury apartments where he resides while parking his car. He caused further damage when opening his car door and left the scene without reporting the collision or leaving his contact information.

Upon returning to his car later, Smith was contacted by officers who suspected he was under the influence of alcohol, though he denied being guilty of DUI in a brief interview with a San Francisco TV station as he left jail after posting bail.

It was Smith’s fifth legal entanglement since the 49ers drafted him No. 7 overall in 2011 and the final straw as San Francisco waived him Friday afternoon.

Smith previously was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon, stemming from a June 2012 party at his house. He suffered stab wounds breaking up a fight at the party during which two people were shot.

Smith also was arrested for DUI in January 2012 in Miami and for DUI and marijuana possession in September 2013 in San Jose, Calif. The latter incident prompted a trip to rehab.

Smith was detained in April 2014 when he became belligerent with security officials and told a Transportation Security Administration agent he had a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport.

No formal charges ever were filed in that incident, but the NFL suspended Smith for the first nine games of the 2014 season for violations of the league’s substance-abuse and personal-conduct policies.

Meanwhile, Richardson, who already had been suspended for the season’s first four games under the NFL’s drug policy for marijuana use, was clocked driving his 2014 Bentley Silver Spur as fast as 143 mph in suburban St. Louis.

He sped away from officers attempting to make a traffic stop before turning into a driveway and shutting off the lights.

Police pulled in behind the car and ordered Richardson and his adult male passengers from the car at gunpoint. A loaded semi-automatic handgun was found in the car, which smelled of marijuana and also was carrying a 12-year-old boy.

Richardson is due in court Oct. 27 on the traffic summonses and for resisting arrest, a class A misdemeanor. He was not charged for gun or marijuana possession.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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