Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously there was a lot written and said about whether or not Ray McDonald should play against the Cowboys in the days leading up to road-opener. The 49ers front office, the only voice that really mattered in that argument, ultimately decided that he should. As we all know, the decision didn't not work out for them, but especially in light of what's played out in Baltimore, the team has left itself open to a huge media firestorm if it should happen that their own Ray-situation turns out to be more explosive than they're hoping. The question now is, with the benefit of knowing what a disaster the Cowboys were, was it really worth the risk?

Nobody has to convince me how precious every NFL contest is, double that when you play in the same division as the league champion. Had Ray McDonald sat that game out and Demarco Murray ran roughshod through a depleted front 7 on the way to a surprising home-opening victory in Dallas, the decision and the loss would haunt them for the next 4 months as it would have undoubtedly played a factor in the playoff chase. That feeling of regret would intensify even more if it turned out that McDonald really didn't prove to be culpable for the "visible injuries" his fianc� exhibited the night of his memorable 30th birthday.

But now with the benefit of hindsight and the knowledge that Dallas couldn't stop anything the 49ers wanted to do in the passing game, I think it can be argued that Ray Charles could have taken 60 snaps at Left End and they still would have won by two scores, alive or dead. So now that we all know the Cowboys were to be taken lightly, and we know that things are, uhh, a little "touchy" when it comes to the media, the NFL, and domestic violence, can anybody really argue that letting Ray play was really the right call?

The possible outcomes were simple had they sat him down. They lose and jeapordize what may be the last year of having the whole band together for a Super Bowl run and get questioned by the fans for the wisdom of what they did, a tough position to be in.

They win the game and look like a deep, competent team, that can focus on the goal and do the prudent, responsible thing in light of a very serious situation. They can sit on a moral perch above the fray of all the blame-shifting and finger-pointing that are sure to ensue behind this Ray Rice situation.

These are the possible outcomes now:

Ray's innocent and potentially still faces a penalty or even suspension from the NFL offices for simply getting arrested. Sound crazy? Ask Ben Roethlisberger how crazy it was. He's the marquee quarterback accused of sexually assaulting a woman yet never faced any charges and got a 6 game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the league" (later reduced to 4 for good behavior). The best case scenario is a zero-sum game, Ray's innocent and nothing happens, but I don't get the feeling that's likely to happen after Goodell has some making up to do for the 2 games he gave Rice.

The other outcome? Ray's Guilty and the media, who many of were calling for the team to sit McDonald, are all-too ready to shred the team and the leadership for putting a game ahead of the life of a woman. Whether the team's hearts and minds were in the right place doesn't matter, they'll never get the chance in the court of public opinion to explain their case. The team will be forced to cut McDonald, as the precedent has been set now, and they're out their player anyway. Furthermore, they look like bad guys. Not just to the rest of the football world, but to the ENTIRE world as the topic of how the NFL handles charges of domestic violence grows beyond the boundaries of the sports pages.

It would have been ideal if someone in this vaunted coaching staff could have seen how truly awful Dallas was going to be and realized that playing Ray McDonald was not to be viewed as taking a risk on the field, but avoiding a HUGE risk off of it.

The arrest record of the team is a bit overblown in the media, but that doesn't change the fact that the regime is taking heat for it at an increasing rate. I believe that from top-to-bottom the team is indeed built with mostly high-character guys, executives included. They just haven't proven to be very good at public relations and this situation has a chance to really put that fact front and center on a national scale. As a fan, I'm crossing my fingers that Ray is as good a guy as he seems and the team's decision was based on players coming forth and giving real insight into what happened there. Not just so that he can keep playing, but so this whole season doesn't get blown up by a giant media distraction.