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Aldon Smith could be returning to Raiders shortly

It’s reasonable to believe Aldon Smith will be playing prime-time football this Thursday.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday afternoon that Smith and commissioner Roger Goodell or another high-ranking league official are setting a meet to discuss a possible reinstatement.

Smith was suspended placed into stage III of the NFL’s substance abuse program midway through last season, holding him out for a minimum of one year, stemming from DUI charges dating back to his final days with the San Francisco 49ers.

Smith, 27, is a former all-pro linebacker who has been reported to be in excellent physical condition and may be ready to start right away if he were reinstated. When he joined the Raiders last season, he was placed into the fold right away and coaches said that it’s not too complicated to get after the quarterback.

Other plays, such as dropping into coverage, are not likely in Smith’s wheelhouse — unless he managed to memorize every defensive play from last season.

Oakland’s coaches and officials have been banned from contacting Smith, which is the case with any player that is in the substance abuse program and serving a suspension.

The Raiders could certainly use Smith.

Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin have gotten hot lately, with each recording at least one sack during Sunday’s abatement of the Buffalo Bills at the Oakland Coliseum, though team’s will generally stand by the mantra that you can never have too many pass rushers.

Irvin could step back to play hybrid linebacker, something he’s done a fair amount of this season, while rookie Jihad Ward is the likely candidate to hit the bench should Smith be reinstated.

Smith has recorded 47.5 sacks in his career, along with 141 tackles and six forced fumbles. In his nine games with the Raiders, including seven starts, Smith recorded 3.5 sacks and 21 tackles.

Should Smith return, the already feared Raiders could become the strongest team in the NFL — and possible hold firm as the top seed in the AFC.

Jason Leskiw is SFBay’s Oakland Raiders beat writer and member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @SFBay and @LeskiwSFBay on Twitter and at for full coverage of Raiders football.

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