The Chiefs will be facing two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks this September without their top cornerback.
On Friday, the league announced that seven-year-pro Sean Smith, who avoided jail time with a recent plea in his DUI case, has received a three-game suspension from the NFL.
“This morning the NFL notified the club that cornerback Sean Smith will serve a three-game suspension effective week one of the regular season,” the Chiefs said in a statement. “We respect and support the league’s decision in this matter and will have no further comment on the situation.”
The league’s new drug policy stipulates that any player who “is convicted of or admits to a violation of the law” relating to the use of alcohol is subject to suspension without pay for two regular-season games. Under the previous policy, first-time DUI offenders received no penalty.
The policy also allows for a harsher suspension in the case of a number of “aggravating circumstances,” including property damage.
Smith has the option to appeal the suspension, but the league typically does not announce suspensions if a player plans on doing so.
Smith will be eligible to participate in all of the Chiefs’ preseason games and practices in August, but he will be required to be away from the team for the first three weeks of the season.
The league said Smith, 28, would be eligible to return to practice on Sept. 29. His first game would be at Cincinnati on Oct. 4.
That means he will miss the Chiefs’ season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 13, their Sept. 17 game against the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning, and the Sept. 28 game against the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers.
Manning threw 39 touchdowns a year ago, which ranked second in the league. Rodgers, the 2014 NFL MVP, threw 38 touchdowns last season, which ranked third.
Needless to say, Smith will be missed against both quarterbacks. In March, he entered a guilty plea in Kansas City Municipal Court for driving under the influence and received two years probation, according to court documents.
In June of 2014, Smith was cited for driving under the influence, careless driving and failure to present insurance after an officer allegedly saw him drive into a light pole in downtown Kansas City.
The charge for careless driving was dropped. Smith paid fines of $346.50 for DUI and $548.50 for failure to present insurance. His probation ends March 9, 2017.
On the morning of June 9, 2014, Kansas City police said an officer observed Smith attempting to make a left turn at 12th Street and Grand Boulevard when he lost control of the vehicle and struck a light post.
Police said Smith appeared confused and began mumbling statements the officer did not understand. The officer then asked if he needed medical attention, but Smith said he did not.
An investigation by the officer revealed the vehicle had major front end and undercarriage damage and the light pole was on the sidewalk and broken.
Following Smith’s arrest, he was demoted to the second team for the remainder of Chiefs’ organized team activities and well into training camp.
He earned back his starting job before the season opener and made 50 tackles, one interception and a career-high 16 pass deflections.
Smith, 28, signed a three-year contract worth $16.5 million before the 2013 season. He is scheduled to be a free agent after this season, but the Chiefs have invested significant resources in the position the last two years.
In 2014, they used a third-round pick on cornerback Phillip Gaines, who had a strong spring and appears well positioned to start either on the outside or in the nickel.
And in May, they used a premium first-round pick on Washington cornerback Marcus Peters, who was forced to miss most of OTAs due to NCAA rules but participated in the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp, where he spent most of his time on the outside.
The Chiefs also used a third-round pick in May on Oregon State cornerback Steven Nelson, who also missed most of OTAs due to NCAA rules but participated in the mandatory minicamp. He spent most of his time in the nickel.
In Smith’s absence, Marcus Cooper — the Chiefs’ rookie of the year in 2013 who lost his starting job a year ago — and Jamell Fleming, who took Cooper’s starting job, will be in the mix for playing time.