It's a total coincidence that San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster and former linebacker Aldon Smith were in the news cycle in the same week, as these are two different people who played at different times. Foster was charged with multiple felonies and Smith was noted to have a near-lethal blood alcohol level when he turned himself into police. But if one wants Foster's talent so badly that they are willing to be in denial of the emerging similarities between the 49ers' handling of both Foster and Smith, it could lead to similarly unfortunate outcomes.

We've already discussed how Jed York, Lynch, and Shanahan stressed the importance of winning with class and character in their players as an integral part of their culture rebuild, and how Foster's multiple arrests challenged the 49ers front office's commitment to the virtues they extolled. But now that three felony charges have been formally filed against Reuben Foster by the Santa Clara DA's office, and details of Foster allegedly punching his girlfriend eight to ten times until her eardrum ruptured have come to light, John Lynch is taking a calculated risk by continuing to wait on Reuben Foster.

By not acting on Foster after he was formally charged with forcefully attempting to prevent his girlfriend from reporting a crime, John Lynch risks losing credibility when talking about character or integrity. By maintaining a 'wait-and-see' approach with Foster, his professed 'brick-by-brick' rebuild becomes less applicable because he is simply repeating Trent Baalke's approach to players getting arrested. Having cut Tramaine Brock within 24 hours of Brock's arrest and now doing nothing following the filing of formal felony charges against Foster, Lynch risks being viewed as just another greedy NFL executive with double standards and a willingness to look the other way when it comes to domestic violence if the accused is uniquely talented. By not setting a firm limit after Foster's second arrest as a 49er, knowing Reuben's documented issues with anger and risky behavior from the NFL Combine and during college, John Lynch may be putting Foster and potentially others at risk of further destructive behavior.

When it comes to assessing the risk of danger to self or others, experts in behavioral health say that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. There seems to be no doubt that this theory holds true in Aldon Smith's case, as he continues to display actions that indicate that he can't stop his self-destructive behavior, possibly facilitated by the lack of hard consequences in his life. If this theory holds true in Reuben Foster's case, he could be at extremely high risk of violence in the future, even more so with the current lack of consequences displayed by his employers.

Some say we are doomed to repeat the sins of our father, and while this may only be a religious cliche, research has shown that those who witness domestic violence are more likely to engage in domestic violence themselves and that early exposure to violence creates the highest risk. Reuben Foster was an infant when he and his mother were shot by his father, an act of violence that implicates higher risk from both nature and nurture. But after that infant grew up to allegedly brutalize his girlfriend while being in possession of an illegal weapon, how can one continue to wait and see without acting on this situation?

One thing that most football fans can agree upon is that Reuben Foster appears to be a troubled young man who needs help. Where there is disagreement is the best way to help him. Many believe that structure and familiarity would be optimal for Foster, suggesting that the start of the 49ers offseason program next week might be the best thing for Foster right now. To that point, I would ask, how did continuing in the structure and routine of football work out for Aldon Smith?

Poll

  • How should the 49ers front office handle Reuben Foster?
  • A.) Cut him immediately.
  • B.) Wait until after the draft to cut him.
  • C.) Suspend him and put him in structured treatment.
  • D.) Do nothing until he is convicted as guilty.