Time is running out for former 49ers and Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith, who at 28 years old is at least five years removed from peak form as he serves an indefinite NFL suspension and faces legal problems stemming from his most recent arrest.
After examining the careers of 10 athletes Monday who saw their careers take a hit because of problems with drugs, alcohol or both, here are 10 who got their livelihood back after the bad times:
A former 20-game winner, the life of the former Washington High (Fremont) star was at a crossroads after going 6-11 with a 4.57 earned run average with the Cubs in 1986. After family members taped Eckersley after hed been drinking at a family gathering, he checked himself into rehab and then reinvented himself as a relief pitcher with the As at age 32. A fitness and conditioning fanatic, Eckersley was the most dominant closer in the game from 1988 to 1992. He won the A.L. Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player award in 1992 and was a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection in 2004.
In his third season with the Golden State Warriors, Mullin, 24, was confronted by coach Don Nelson about his drinking. Hed had two so-so seasons and his weight had climbed near the 250 pound range. Mullin went to rehab and returned lighter, in better condition and determined to remain sober. His career took off. Mullin averaged better than 25 points per game over the next four seasons and he ended up one of the all-time great Warriors, averaging 20.1 points per game in 13 seasons. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was a Warriors executive from 2004-09 and is now the basketball coach at St. Johns, his alma mater.
A drinking problem which began in college at Tennessee resulted in three arrests before his 23rd birthday. After playing in 19 games for the Utah Jazz and averaging 9.3 points per game, King checked himself into rehab, then joined the Golden State Warriors for the 1980-81 season. Playing on team with World B. Free and Joe Barry Carroll, King averaged 21.9 points per game and then 23.2 before being traded to the New York Knicks for Michael Ray Richardson. King, a New York native, went on to star for the Knicks. He was a four-time NBA all-star and twice made the All-NBA first team.
By his second season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, Welch was the victim of occasional blackouts, so heavy was his drinking. Welch went into rehab in 1980 and gave up alcohol, having been drinking since he was a teenager. After going 115-90 in 10 seasons with the Dodgers, Welch had his best years in Oakland, going 95-60 and winning a Cy Young Award with a 27-6 record in 1990 ten years into his sobriety. Welch finished with a 211-146 won-loss record and later worked as a pitching coach. He was working in the As when he died after an accidental fall in his bathroom in 2014.
When the former college star from Maryland joined the Warriors in 1978, he was in the throes of a cocaine addiction which he would battle until going to rehab in 1986. Lucas played three seasons with he Warriors before moving on to stops with the Washington Bullets, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets. In the 1986-87 season, finally clean, Lucas averaged a career-high 17.5 points per game for the Milwaukee Bucks at age 33. He was a part-time player for there more seasons, was a head coach for three different teams and most significantly uses his experiences as life coach to help others with addiction.
The major league lifestyle caught up with the Vallejo product in 2015, when Sabathia finally went to Yankees manager Joe Girardi and said he needed help. Sabathia had been drinking steadily since he was 20, and told The Players Tribune he never picked up on the signals that he was in trouble. After 29 days in rehab, Sabathia returned to the Yankees. Last season, Sabathia went 14-5 for the Yankees for a .737 winning percentage, his best since going 21-7 (.750) for the Yankees in 2010. Sabathia has a 237-146 career record with Cleveland, Milwaukee and the Yankees and begins his 18th major league season this year.
Given the notoriety which followed Janikowski from Florida State to his early seasons with the Raiders, it would be hard to imagine the place-kicker going on to set the franchise record for games played (268) and lasting 19 seasons in the NFL. His college career included bar fights and an acquittal on an attempted bribery charge. Problems early on with the Raiders included an arrest for possession of the drug GHB, a fall in a nightclub while allegedly intoxicated and a DUI charge in 2002. For the most part, Janikowski has stayed away from trouble after getting married and having three daughters. He is a free agent as of March 14 and hopes to play for another team.
A former executive with the 49ers as V.P. of player personnel (2005-07) and general manager 2008-09, McCloughan told Sports Illustrated in 2014 his drinking had gotten out of hand. Owner Jed York and McCloughan agreed to part ways in 2010. McCloughan worked as a senior personnel executive in Seattle through 2013 and was hired as Washingtons G.M. 2015. Rumors of his drinking again surfaced when McCloughan was fired for cause in 2016. McCloughan told S.I. he no longer drinks hard alcohol but has the occasional beer. He is still one of the most respected talent evaluators in the NFL as a consultant and is currently serving as an advisor for the Cleveland Browns.
A highly respected coach for the As from 1996-2006, Washington was hired as the manager of the Texas Rangers in 2007. His career was nearly ruined by a positive cocaine test in 2010, with Washington admitting his lapse to Texas management before the team learned of the result. He managed the Texas Rangers into 2014, resigning after admitting hed had an extra marital affair and hoping to get his family life in order. Washington returned to the As in 2015-16 and now is a coach for the Atlanta Braves. He is regarded as one of the best infield coaches in baseball.
One of seven players to be suspended for a year after the Pittsburgh drug trials in 1985 (the sentences were commuted in exchange for donating to anti-drug causes and performing community service), Parkers career had slipped until he returned to play for his hometown Cincinnati Reds. The cocaine scandal was a distant memory as Parker finished second in the MVP voting in 1985 with a .314 average, 34 homers and 125 RBIs). Parker had one of his last big years with the As during a two-year run in (1988-89) in which Oakland went to the World Series twice, winning the second one. In 1989, Parker had 22 homers and 97 RBIs for the As at age 38.