When the San Francisco 49ers drafted Reuben Foster in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan knew it was a gamble. As we are well aware now, it was a gamble that failed.
But that doesn’t mean they failed. In fact, with the leadership and honesty they’ve shown in the past 48 hours, 49ers fans should have all the confidence in the team’s general manager and head coach.
Shanahan made it very clear that domestic violence will not be tolerated by the 49ers organization, but at the end of the day, even if Foster is innocent of this charge, too many bad decisions have been made.
“[W]e…knew Rueben had a string of making bad decisions,” said Shanahan. “We knew that when we took him. We thought he would improve and we were going to do everything we could to help him. And Reuben did improve in some things. But, you know, for that to come up for what did happen last year or earlier in this year, and then for what happened Saturday with the same person at a team hotel, it’s just hard to comprehend how you could put yourself in that situation again. I’m not okay with that regardless. I don’t know exactly what happened. Obviously, any time you’re dealing with domestic violence or anything like that, when there is a victim in domestic violence, there’s not many things in this world more wrong than domestic violence and things like that. Everyone in our building are just like other people. We feel extremely strong about that and will always support that. I don’t know exactly what happened between Reuben and the accuser. But, after this happened a second time with the same person in our hotel, I think that decision making was enough for us to move on. Who knows what happened. Maybe people will find out. But, that wasn’t why we made this decision.”
Shanahan confirmed that the incident happened before a team meeting Saturday night and he was told before he went into that meeting. Once he heard what happened, it was done.
“I’m preparing right to go into it and I heard it,” Shanahan said. “It was a hard thing to hear. But, that’s what I was trying to explain. If that was another player that hadn’t ever been in something like this before, we would’ve been a lot more patient. ‘Hey, yeah, that’s a horrible accusation. Let’s hear what it is and let’s find out and let’s try to get to the bottom of the truth.’ In this situation, because of what we’d been through before, that didn’t matter. I already knew that. It sucks. He’s done here.”
Shanahan tried to call Foster a couple times today but he has not heard back from him yet.
“I’ve known Reuben for two years now,” said Shanahan. “I’m very disappointed in him, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about him. That doesn’t mean we don’t have a relationship and he’s not dead to me because this happened. I’m sure this is a tough day for him and he’s put himself in this situation so I don’t feel bad about that. But, I’m not going to ignore him. I wanted to call him and get a chance to talk to him. But, I didn’t get an answer. I just left him a voicemail.”
From a football perspective, Shanahan said, “it sucks.” The Niners are down a linebacker and a talented one at that. But, this is bigger than football and bigger than one player. The phrase we’ve heard a lot over the last couple days is “Protect the Team.”
“”Protect the team is for every single person in our organization to know that there’s not one person who is bigger than this organization,” Shanahan said. “I’m very proud to be the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. I also know that when I’m not here, there’s going to be a lot more coaches of the 49ers. Whoever it is, it’s the 49ers are more important than any individual. Whether it’s a player, whether it’s a coach, it really doesn’t matter. I say that so people understand it. It doesn’t mean, ‘Hey, protect the team so we don’t look bad.’ It means understand that you have a responsibility and you are not bigger than our organization and you cannot do things and think that it’s just you. You represent our place. We want people to represent our place right and that isn’t just from perception standpoint. I want it to be real. I hope it comes off that way. But, protect the team is really a reality check of what our world is like. You work for a place that, I don’t care how good you are, this place is bigger than you and you need to understand that.”
The 49ers tried really hard with Foster. They did everything in their power to make him successful, but there was only so much they could do.
“I want people who are trying to get better,” Shanahan said. “I think Reuben was in some ways, but not enough. He had a long way to go and he didn’t get far enough. But, when I go back and look did we handle anything wrong in what we tried to do for Reuben? I think we tried to do more for him than I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been to for a player.”
And that closes the book on Reuben Foster as a San Francisco 49er.