- Associated Press - Monday, September 23, 2013

SANTA CLARA, CALIF. (AP) - The San Francisco 49ers are prepared to go forward without star linebacker Aldon Smith for as long as it takes for him to get clean, healthy and improve his life.

Smith was placed on the reserve non-football injury list Monday as he enters rehab for substance abuse and begins what team CEO Jed York has termed an indefinite absence.

“I am taking a leave of absence to address my health,” Smith said through the 49ers. “I am sorry that I have affected my team, my family and the organization. I will do everything in my power to handle this situation the best way possible. I appreciate the support of the 49ers and our fans.”

The NFL said there is no minimum number of games Smith must miss on the reserve non-football injury list, and he can return when ready.

On whether he expects Smith to return this season, coach Jim Harbaugh said only, “there’s a process, we’re going to respect that process.”

Smith played Sunday and had five tackles just two days after he was arrested and jailed Friday morning on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession. Smith apologized after the 27-7 home loss to the Colts, and now his team moves forward without him heading to St. Louis on Thursday.

“We’re very supportive of Aldon as we are of all of our players, all of our coaches, our personnel. Always support it in house,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve hashed through it, now we’re taking steps and Aldon’s taking steps. We support him in that.”

San Francisco didn’t immediately announce a corresponding roster move.

“We have a pretty good idea what we’re going to do and we’ll make that announcement,” Harbaugh said.

Smith had previously been arrested on suspicion of DUI in January 2012 in Miami shortly after the 49ers lost in the NFC championship game. He is expected to remain in the Bay Area for treatment.

He could face a suspension from the NFL either later this season or next season, and it is likely given he has had more than one infraction. The NFL would let the legal process play itself out first.

Harbaugh said Dan Skuta, Ahmad Brooks and Corey Lemonier will help fill the void left by Smith, who had a franchise-best 19 1/2 sacks last season. Demarcus Dobbs, who was suspended for Week 1 for his own arrest on suspicion of DUI and marijuana possession from last season, also could be in the mix for some packages.

“I have confidence in those guys and know they’ll do a good job,” Harbaugh said. “Go with the guys we’ve got.”

Smith, selected seventh overall in the 2011 draft out of Missouri, turns 24 on Wednesday.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Smith “never had any problems with that, zero,” at school. He said he texted Smith earlier Monday and thought the situation could be turned into something “real positive.”

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