General manager John Lynch stated this week the 49ers are preparing as if Reuben Foster will never again step on the playing field for the organization.
Although Foster’s future in the NFL appeared to receive a boost on Wednesday, the 49ers’ approach should remain unchanged.
The alleged victim involved in the case against Foster stepped forward on eve of the draft to recant the statements she provided to responding officers in February. She said Foster did not injure or threaten her, as the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office has alleged with two felony domestic violence charges.
Elissa Ennis, Foster’s former girlfriend, stated she got into a fight with another woman. Foster tried to end his relationship with Ennis, according to the woman’s attorney, Stephanie Rickard. The former girlfriend told Foster that she would “trash his career,” said the attorney, who added Ennis admitted the charges against Foster were “based on lies.”
There will certainly be more developments, perhaps beginning Monday morning, when Foster has his next scheduled court appearance. The DA’s office and the 49ers declined comment after the woman released her statement.
The 49ers own the No. 9 pick in the draft on Thursday, and they could very well make a statement at that point. After all, two of the top players who could be available at that point are linebackers.
The 49ers must select the best player – not a player from the position that is considered the biggest need.
So if the 49ers believe the best player is Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith, both linebackers, or defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, or whomever, that is the player the 49ers must take with their first-round selection.
And, more to the point, if that "best available player" happens to be a linebacker, the 49ers are not in a position to trust that Foster will be a long-term member of the organization. As it pertains to the draft, the turn of events on Wednesday should have no impact on the long-term planning of Lynch and the 49ers' personnel department.
The 49ers must continue to prepare as if Foster will not be on the team. In fact, the 49ers took measures in free agency to cover themselves in case Foster were released. Lynch said Monday Foster will be released if it is proven Foster hit the alleged victim.
The 49ers re-signed Brock Coyle, who started 10 games at middle linebacker, including all six of the team’s victories. The 49ers also signed free-agent inside linebacker Korey Toomer, who started 16 games over the past two seasons with the Chargers.
The 49ers expect to receive an upgrade with the return of veteran weakside linebacker Malcolm Smith, who missed every game with a pectoral injury. At the time in training camp when Smith sustained his season-ending injury, the coaching staff considered him the team’s best linebacker.
Foster ended up playing Smith’s position as a rookie. The plan was for Foster to move to middle linebacker in Year 2.
Foster was a part-time player last season due to injuries. He missed six games with an ankle sprain. He missed another game with a ribs injury. Foster rarely made it through a game without some kind of injury scare.
There is still way too much uncertainty with Foster’s situation. What other testimony or evidence will surface? Will the DA’s office pursue prosecution? Will the NFL find Foster in violation of the league’s policy on personal conduct?
Foster entered the NFL with concerns about his character and physical condition. Some teams reportedly moved him from their draft boards due to surgically repaired shoulder condition.
And after one season as a professional, Foster has done nothing to allay either of those concerns and prove he can be trusted to have a long, productive NFL career.