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49ers’ commitment to character should mean releasing Reuben Foster

Feb 13, 2018 at 9:24 AM13

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On April 7th, 2017, former 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock was arrested for hitting a woman he had been dating. The following day, 49ers general manager John Lynch released Brock and reiterated the organization's commitment to character.

Following 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster's second arrest this off-season last Sunday, most recently for alleged domestic violence, John Lynch now faces the most challenging decision of his tenure so far. Since their introduction, Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have reiterated themes of discipline, accountability, and character as integral to the organization, and maintaining their commitment to these virtues should mean releasing Reuben Foster.

One of the possible reasons owner Jed York made a talking point about "winning with class" and why Lynch and Shanahan have touted character and accountability as top priorities may be due to the organization's mishandling of multiple 49ers arrests while Trent Baalke was the general manager.

Former 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith had perennial Pro Bowl potential, which may have been why Baalke defended keeping him after he was arrested for making bomb threats at LAX and did not release him until after Smith's fifth arrest in three years. But the optics of how it was handled implied that Baalke stalled on doing the right thing because of Aldon Smith's talent. In hindsight, keeping Aldon Smith not only did nothing to help the team but it may have made Smith more likely to continue acting out due to lack of consequences.

In August of 2014, former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence toward his fiancée. Baalke and the 49ers drew criticism for letting McDonald continue to play in games, despite the fact that police had previously been called to McDonald's home in May of that year due to a domestic dispute where his fiancée was alleged to have held a handgun prior to McDonald calling 911. It wasn't until McDonald was charged with rape by intoxication in December 2014 that Baalke conceded that McDonald had displayed a pattern of behavior that now justified his release. McDonald would later be arrested twice in May of 2015, first for domestic violence and possible child endangerment and again two days later for violating a restraining order, preceding his release from the Bears.

In March of 2015, former 49ers fullback Bruce Miller was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor battery of a spouse or cohabitant and he was not suspended at the time. It wasn't until he was arrested in September of 2016 for four felony accounts, including assaulting a 70-year-old man, that the 49ers released Miller.

Do you see a pattern here?

It seems that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan were indeed aware of the previous front office's pattern of handling off-field issues, which may have been a factor in their vocal emphasis on high character, accountability, and discipline during various media interactions and their swift and decisive release of Tramaine Brock following Brock's arrest. While John Lynch did leave himself an out about handling off-field issues following Brock's release, saying that they would "treat each one of them as a unique and different situation," he now is painted into a corner of sorts since Foster has definitively displayed a pattern of off-field trouble.

It's not usually a good sign when one has to defend the character of a draft choice before that draft choice even signs a contract with the team, but John Lynch was forced to defend his taking on risk on Foster from the moment he drafted him. Lynch was forced to defend his selection of Foster amidst character concerns based on Reuben's pattern of off-field issues that predated him being drafted by the 49ers.

Foster had a tragic upbringing, including him and his mother being shot by his father, that likely affected his emotional and social development but could also be a testament to his resiliency to make it to the NFL. But childhood adversity is not a reason in itself to deem Foster a risk. Reuben's off-field issues at Alabama and prior to the draft led to some taking him completely off the draft board as someone too high-risk, not unlike how some teams took Aaron Hernandez off their draft boards due to character concerns. Foster's risks are now, in hindsight, seeming like more valid and serious concerns.

Before starting at Alabama, some speculated that Foster's father, Danny, who had escaped from prison and had made a Twitter account to try and get back in his children's life, might be a possible negative influence in his son's life. While initially committed to Auburn, Foster got an Auburn tattoo before changing his mind, suggesting he may have a susceptibility to impulsivity. After he was a star linebacker at Alabama, Foster was at an Auburn nightclub where one of his friends Recco Cobb, 43, was among three people shot to death. A relative of Cobb's, Tarabien Latrent Cobb, 33, was arrested and charged with murder, according to an article written by Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated. This off-field issue added to concerns about how friends and family might influence Foster.

During the NFL combine, Foster was sent home due to a heated argument with medical staff and was later deemed to have given a dilute urine sample. Robert Klemko shared some details about what led to Foster being sent home from the combine:

In January of 2018, Foster was arrested in Alabama for possession of marijuana, which many did not see as a major transgression in itself but possibly more concerning when taken together with his previous failed drug test. Now that Foster has been arrested for domestic violence, the elephant in the room is a distinct pattern of off-field issues that must be addressed.

One of the qualities of many great leaders is acting with consistency and integrity. This doesn't mean each situation isn't unique with nuanced complexity. But Foster's situation is not a single incident. He now has two arrests in a month's time in the context of a pre-existing pattern of off-field concerns. If the 49ers don't respond to it the same way they reacted to Tramaine Brock, it would appear to be a double standard that won't sit well with fans, possibly teammates, and could likely be detrimental to Foster himself.

During the Baalke era, the 49ers were not consistent with discipline and it contributed to the team having repeated offenses. If John Lynch truly wants to change the culture and prioritize character, accountability, and discipline, he must learn from the 49ers' mistakes of the past and cut Reuben Foster.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • The truth
    Wow. What an emotional article. I will never read a Patrick Chung anything ever again. You don't trade up in the first round, find out the guys a superstar, and then cut him BEFORE he's even convicted of anything! Unless you were there how do you know what happened? It's a fact that the police will hit you with as many charges as possible, people are rarely guilty of the worst ones. That's how the system works to make plea bargains. It's people like you who taint jury pools, your minds made up already without knowing anything as fact. Here's a fact, I know everyone is so sensitive but there are gold digging women out there who will lie cheat and steal, and they become very desperate and crazy when the gravy train decides to move on. My point is you fools have no clue what the reality of that night is, yet your so arrogant to presume what happened like the newspaper and police only report facts. Foh
    Feb 22, 2018 at 8:57 PM
  • Ray Herrera
    In my opinion I have seen this pattern before a young angry man who has issues controlling his emotions the enhancer to his anger is usually drugs or steroids which intensifies their personality which they can't t control their emotions this is an observation not conclusive by any means.
    Feb 18, 2018 at 8:08 AM
  • MosesZD
    Oh, you puritans and virtue signalers of little understanding. 1. The weapon was legally obtained and registered in Alabama. It's a paperwork problem and the charges likely won't stick. 2. California is a Duluth Model state. In any domestic altercation the MAN, EVEN IF INNOCENT, must be arrested. What appears to be happening is a nasty break-up where he threw her shit out of his house, then pushed her out when she refused to leave his house (which makes a trespasser at that point).
    Feb 14, 2018 at 5:16 AM
  • 9erred
    While I do not support domestic violence, there is usually her side of the story, his side of the story and somewhere in between is the truth. By her reporting her long term boyfriend, and to mention the rifle (which is legal to have) she was setting up her side of the story. I do not know what the truth is, but perhaps he was trying to get her out of his house and life and tried to force her out by grabbing her arm. I do not know if this is what happened but one never knows. Let the truth come out, suspend him without pay for the first 3 games, and pray that is all the NFL comes back with. Hopefully he gets the message and gets help. That being said if he has another arrest, he sould be gone for being so stupid to put himself in that position.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 6:42 PM
  • DaNiners
    Hey Chung, we don't need you. Last I checked, Ezekial Elliott was still with the Cowboys. This isn't Tramaine Brock, and yes, the talent goes into the overall equation. He's innocent until proven guilty. F social media. Should he have dragged her out of his house? No. Should she have left when told? Yes. No one has a right to remain on someones else's property when asked to leave. That's trespassing. In Texas, you can get shot for that. What he should have done is call the cops himself. That was his big mistake. Cut him? Probably not. He gets one more strike...and I don't even consider the pot incident a strike. It's going to be legal everywhere in five years.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 12:32 PM
  • 49erFaithful4evr
    I say pre-emptively suspend him for the first month of the season before the league does it and make him go to anger management classes. Then after that have him babysat by a body guard who protects him from himself like the Cowboys did. Draft a LB just in case he implodes like Aldon. Force him to watch sports shows where they talk about all the idiots who bypassed millions and an NFL career because of their stupidity and are now working at McDonalds or in prison. Make him go to a therapist every week to retrain his psychology and behavior. If that doesn’t work, trade him for a 3rd round pick.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:47 AM
  • Trent
    He’s 23, rich, big and pretty much thinks he can do whatever he wants. He’s going to find out sooner or later that he can’t. I don’t think it’s time to cut him. He had a gun, big deal, so do lots of people. Got caught with weed, again, no big deal. Grabbed a hoe by the hair and threw a butch out his house. Sounds ok to me, as long as he didn’t close fist knock her out. I’m ok with it.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:40 AM
  • Jkla
    Can we cut your for writing this crap ?
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:35 AM
  • Crandle
    Cut him for what, so some other team can pick him up. Just like all the other guys they cut for these types of issues.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:14 AM
  • GM
    I completely agree with this article. Each case is different, but it's clear there's a pattern here and a bad one. It's not even whether he's "guilty" it's that he's again put himself in a situation where we're all asking the question. That, in my opinion, is why any employer would take quick action without waiting for jurisprudence to complete its cycle. It's time to stop asking "what happened" and time to start asking "why does this keep happening?"
    Feb 13, 2018 at 11:10 AM
  • mbniner
    Good article. But each case is different. Clearly Baalke and Harbaugh hung onto Aldon Smith far too long but Lynch may have had a knee-jerk reaction to Brock who was eventually cleared, albeit partially due to his girlfriend not cooperating.with the police. Two of the recent charges, the marijuana possession and the assault weapon (which was registered but not in California) are not serious. Every domestic violence situation has two stories and it's him vs her. Apparently, she had no visible injuries. Let the police and the team/league sort this out before we condemn or exonerate him.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 10:21 AM
  • Jim Grimes
    Guilty until proven innocent! You have to love the new America!
    Feb 13, 2018 at 10:00 AM
  • Nick
    Nice article and you definitely bring this issue to light. Lynch was quick to let Brock go but also didn't draft him and no where near the talent of Foster. If he sticks to the "Niner Way" Foster should be gone but its a tough decision.
    Feb 13, 2018 at 9:47 AM

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