Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the decision San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith made to enter a treatment program for substance abuse could affect any punishment he receives from the NFL for his off-the-field problems.
Goodell spoke in London, the site of Sunday's game between the 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.
"Certainly, the issue here isn't to discipline players. It's to stop the behavior," Goodell said. "Aldon has voluntarily said, 'I need help.'
"We're obviously there to support him, and the 49ers did a great job getting him into a facility to try to get help. We support that."
Smith will miss his fifth straight game since entering a treatment program on Sept. 23, three days after his second drunk-driving-related arrest since entering the league in 2011.
The 49ers plan to meet with Smith and have not ruled out his return to the team this season. Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke said they are encouraged by reports of Smith's progress.
Smith could receive a reduced game suspension, a fine or the league may take no action, depending on Smith's progress and the time spent away from the team.
The 49ers received criticism for playing Smith just two days after his arrest on Sept. 22 against the Indianapolis Colts. He left the team to seek treatment the following day. The 49ers believed it was in Smith's best interest to be with the team.
Goodell said the league was in a difficult spot because of its rules with the NFL Players' Association.
"We've made a couple of proposals to our union that we should take quicker action. But they've resisted that," he said. "We have to operate within the context of the collective bargaining agreement and joint drug program. That's something we weren't in position to do."