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October 25, 2013
Baalke "hopeful" about Aldon Smith, discusses LaMichael James, looming trade deadline

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LONDON -- Trent Baalke said Friday he's proud of the way his team has "continued to grind" through the first half of the season despite injuries to high-profile players, a two-game losing skid and a messy off-the-field incident involving Aldon Smith.

The 49ers general manager said he planned to meet with with Smith, who entered a treatment facility Sept. 23, "in the near future" but that there was no timeline for the Pro Bowl outside linebacker to return to the field.

Baalke said the 49ers must be convinced Smith has made progress and that there must be a "trust factor" with the 24 year old, who was arrested for DUI early on Sept. 21, his second such arrest in two years, and also is facing gun-possession charges.

"Our ultimate goal is to help Aldon get back to a place where he feels very comfortable and can move forward in a very positive manner," Baalke said. ".... Obviously we're hopeful. But at the same time we're prepared for either outcome."

Baalke, who rarely holds court with reporters, spoke for 2 1/2 hours at a London hotel before his team went through its final, full practice of the week. Among the topics:

* He said he would not trade LaMichael James despite the 49ers having no obvious role for the running back. A second-round pick last year, James has been inactive the last two games and showed frustration via Twitter earlier this month. "You respect and understand the frustration," Baalke said. "You'd be disappointed if a player wasn't playing and wasn't frustrated because of it." Baalke called James a "key player" whose role would expand with time.

* He stopped short of saying the 49ers would try to extend or re-sign wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is only signed through March, but he heaped praise on the 11-year veteran. Boldin has caught the lion's share of passes by a 49ers wideout this year and is the only wideout on the team with a touchdown. "There is no better pro, in my opinion, than Anquan," Baalke said. "He is the consummate professional. He's a leader, he's a mentor. He's a great family man. He is a class act."

* Baalke said the team continues to try to "make it right" with cornerback Tarell Brown, who lost a $2 million workout bonus before the season began. "What is right? I don't know the answer," Baalke said. "We'll do our best to make sure T-Brown feels he's being treated fairly by the 49ers organization."

Smith, meanwhile, currently is on the reserve non-football injury/illness list and is one of six 49ers who could be added to the 53-man roster in coming months. The others are receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright, defensive end Tank Carradine and linebacker Nick Moody, all of whom are currently on various injury lists. If they are activated, the 49ers must make a corresponding move to clear space on the 53-man roster.

The 49ers have been rumored to be interested in trading for a receiver, specifically Cleveland's Josh Gordon or the Giants' Hakeem Nicks. The trade deadline is Tuesday. However, the looming influx of players like Manningham and Crabtree, plus the fact that 49ers will be in London until Monday, makes a trade unlikely.

Baalke would not tip his hand. "You never know," he said. "You never know what tomorrow brings."

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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