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Looking at the Culture and Infrastructure Around Reuben Foster

Sequoia Sims
Feb 15, 2018 at 3:49 PM

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Recently, on the 49ers Webzone, I presented and laid out an optimistic perspective on Reuben Foster while challenging the talented linebacker to take responsibility/accountability for his actions and becoming a better professional on and off the field moving forward.

In light of Foster's second arrest within the last 40 days, which involves domestic violence, threats, and assault weapon charges, I am now turning my attention to the culture and infrastructure around Reuben Foster; from an intervention specialist perspective. Now hold that thought...

The 49ers maintain that football character matters

Also delivered recently on 49ers Webzone was an article entitled: 49ers' commitment to character should mean releasing Reuben Foster. The article lays out how the old and new regime of the 49ers' brass handled former players that dealt with serious off-the-field issues as well as Foster's childhood history and upbringing, most notably his father, Danny Foster, shooting his mother and him when he was 19 months old. And his well-documented trials and tribulations during his collegiate and professional career.

Intervention Specialist Perspective (ISP)

My experience stretches over a span of three decades in extensive training, education, and certifications/credentials (City of Oakland, County of Alameda and the State of California) in the following areas: violence prevention, domestic violence, anger/behavior management, conflict resolution, life/interpersonal skills, leadership/mentorship development, emotional intelligence and intervention strategies, and techniques, etc.

The populations I specifically have worked with are minorities who are at-risk youth, and middle age adults ranging from ages 14 through 35.

I've done independent consultant/volunteer work for Juvenile Hall, California Youth Authority, and San Quentin prison. My work extends to perpetrators of violence and victims of violence within high-violent communities and incarcerated facilities.

Putting in perspective Foster's adversity and emotional state throughout life

Foster's surroundings aka... culture, his actions and decision making on and off the field throughout his life, whether it's self-inflicted or out of his own control (product of his environment), on a micro or macro level, cry-out and equal one common denominator: "Violence." Playing football is an emotional outlet for Foster.

Anger is an emotion, hence, why he probably loves playing the linebacker position while having the license to violently hit and punish people with reckless abandonment.

But as fans roar for those jarring hits that make SportsCenter highlight reels and allow owners to pack stadiums, what gets lost in the field of play is the inner boy behind the pads who lacks true guidance and a transformation of (role model ala NaVorro Bowman type) leadership to emulate and model his personal and football character after.

Looking at the culture and infrastructure around Reuben Foster

The 49ers, led by head coach Kyle Shanahan, General Manager John Lynch, and his staff, have done a great job at re-establishing the culture and infrastructure in Santa Clara. A big part of that new culture is in the locker room where the 49ers had an influx of 19 rookies in 2017 that saw the field and played 6,245 snaps.

The 49ers have a roster that's also composed of a core of second- to fourth-year players mixed with some reserve quality veterans and serviceable starters.

However, there are no established Pro-Bowl players on the defensive side of the ball playing at a high level that Foster respects and looks up to, which is why the 49ers wanted Ken Norton Jr. in the building to help mentor and develop Foster.

Interesting to note: Former 49er Aldon Smith (14 sacks his rookie season), who was considered a risk and a reach as the seventh overall pick in the 2011 draft coming out of Missouri, was drafted onto a veteran team that featured (2011-Pro-Bowler/All-Pro) Justin Smith, (2011-Pro-Bowler/All-Pro) Patrick Willis, (2011-Pro-Bowler in his second year) Bowman, (2011- Pro-Bowler) Carlos Rogers, and (2011-Pro-Bowler) Dashon Goldson, just to name a few.

The 49ers had a Pro-Bowler at every level of the defense that was either No. 1 at their position or top ten in the NFL. Smith, in his second year (19.5 sacks) made the Pro-Bowl and claimed All-Pro honors in 2012 with a similar group of highly talented and decorated players around him (all strong-minded and tough players).

That environment kept him in check his first two-years and the rest of the Aldon Smith story we know all too well. Once Smith spiraled downhill, he never regained his form on and off the field. Did the 49ers and the Oakland Raiders become coddlers and enablers of Smith? Will the 49ers do the same with Foster?

Ask yourself this question: Who's the outspoken, no-nonsense defensive veteran leader who can command the respect of Reuben Foster, who's over 26, 27, or 28 years old?

Recent Niners Live article alerts: Adding LB Derrick Johnson would help Reuben Foster, from a different perspective, of course.

Curveball: Was Ray-Ray Armstrong, whose production at the time ranked second on the team in tackles and first in interceptions, released because of a numbers/depth game? Or was it because he and Foster were involved in an alleged robbery attempt coupled with Armstrong's past off-the-field issues deemed a negative influence on Foster?

The culture and infrastructure work great for clean-cut and soft-spoken guys (ala Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner) coming from stable homes with two high-character/role-model parents. But Foster's situation, as previously mentioned, is a different kind of animal.

Foster needs an intensive and more specific culture/infrastructure that's centered around his areas of opportunities in the maturity, decision-making, leadership growth/development, anger management, emotional intelligence, and violence prevention departments.

To Be Released or Not Be Released? That is the question

If the 49ers can't surround Foster with the right wrap-around resources/support system that is spelled out in this article from top to bottom, then in my professional opinion, it's just a matter of time before history repeats itself.

That history could happen in the next six months to three years or sooner, but the probability of it happening is high without a stronger culture and infrastructure in place to support a player like Foster. With that being said, Foster still has to be the one to want to change for the better.

I'm not trying to go Michael Jackson here, but he needs to look at the man in the mirror and ask to change his ways... I'm not here as a witness. To Be Continued.....

Sequoia Sims: Founder of Niners Live, Content Creator, player breakdown specialist, and Senior Author. The home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, and different perspective, of course.
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.


  • Oakland-Niner
    Good article and thanks for the perspective. While it doesn't absolve Foster of his actions, it does provide context and a potential blueprint to help this young man reach his potential on and off the field. I know that a lot of people wont understand what you wrote, but its only because they just dont understand the world you speak of. The lack of mentors and role models was something I worried about when the whole team was turned over in a year. I hope the Niner's FO understand this, but I'm not very hopeful considering the pedigree of both Kyle and York. I hope they prove us wrong.
    Feb 16, 2018 at 12:13 PM
  • mbniner
    Good analysis. The FO is aware of the problem and, as you said, were trying to help correct it with a Ken Norton,Jr addition. As far as your question as to who is that strong and vocal leader on the defense I think that Eric Reid is the closest. He has been a pro bowler and shows team leadership skills on and off the field. But it is probable that he will not be part of the team in 2018. If you are correct in your assessment, if the Niners cannot add or develop the mentor he needs he is probably going to be released. I hope that this does not happen, this guy needs help and support to turn his life around.
    Feb 16, 2018 at 10:09 AM
  • Phil C.
    I watched the Allen Iverson documentary last night. I feel like Foster has a similar temperament, and like Iverson also came from a troubled background. It's a fine line with these guys. While they definitely need structure, at the same time you don't want to completely squash their freedom of expression. Ultimately, they need to know people have their back. I think just cutting Foster would lead to him spiraling to a really dark place. If the team needs to suspend him for a few games, fine, but don't just cut him outright. At least not until all the facts have been gathered.
    Feb 16, 2018 at 7:36 AM
  • jimi wilkinson
    reading this article makes sense if only foster wants the help he needs and the 9ers need to suspended him and of coarse the nfl will do the same and watch him get his help and then surround him with support from his team mates and professional help and get him back on the field again...he is a special player,but needs that help!!!!!
    Feb 16, 2018 at 4:33 AM
  • Tommy
    I just wasted 5 minutes of my life by reading that crap. For someone with all those credentials you didn't dive into his life or anything for that matter. You gave stats, you know anyone can Google what you laid out up there??. If your going to write an article and INCLUDE all of your "achievments" then go for it, don't pussy foot around the touchy subject and talk about this player and that player. C'mon man
    Feb 15, 2018 at 6:40 PM

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