The San Francisco 49ers took a gamble on Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster last year, trading back up into the first round to select him No. 31 overall. It was a gamble because the talented player had some serious red flags, both in terms of health and off-field issues, that were so significant some teams took him off their draft boards altogether.
After one season with the club, Foster is in some seriously hot water, having already been arrested twice this offseason. The first arrest was due to Foster possessing marijuana, while the second was of a more serious nature. Foster was arrested on domestic violence charges, and he was found to be in possession of an assault rifle when police searched his residence.
On Wednesday, 49ers owner Jed York made it clear that Foster’s position with the club is tenuous, at best.
“We’d love Reuben to be on this team,” York said, per David Lombardi of The Athletic. We’d love him to participate for us. But if he’s not doing things off the field that allow us to be able to rely on him…then you’re just going to have to move on. I know Reuben is very cognizant of where his position is right now. His time with the 49ers can potentially be over if he continues to do things outside the team that aren’t what we want him to be a part of.”
Two things to note here. The first is that this is obviously a very stern warning. And given the 49ers’ dealings with Aldon Smith in the past it’s clear Foster is going to be done if he has another run-in with the law.
The second thing is that, if this were just an average player he’d already have been released. The 49ers wasted no time dumping Tramaine Brock when he was accused of domestic violence last year. But he wasn’t a star like Foster is.
So, there’s a bit of a double standard going on that everyone knows exists but that isn’t necessarily right. But it is what it is, and we don’t see that changing any time soon.
San Francisco doesn’t want to be forced to cut ties with Foster, who is undeniably talented. They invested draft capital and stuck their neck out for him in a big way. Now, the ball is in his court — it’s time to shape up or ship out.