ORLANDO, Fla. – CEO Jed York took responsibility for what the 49ers will decide as more information becomes available on linebacker Reuben Foster.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday no decision has yet been made whether to pursue criminal charges against Foster, who was arrested last month at his Los Gatos home for alleged domestic violence, threats and possession of an assault weapon.
York said he has not talked with Foster about the incidents of this offseason, including a January arrest for possession of marijuana in Alabama. However, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have spoken with Foster on multiple occasions.
“We’d love Reuben to be on this team,” York said on the final day of the NFL owners meetings. “And 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 – or he’s doing something that we’re not comfortable with off the field and it’s proven that’s what’s going on -- I think the guys have said then you’re just going to have to move on.”
The 49ers have dealt with off-field issues in the past involving Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald, Bruce Miller and Tramaine Brock. Each of those players were released after off-field incidents. Smith and McDonald had multiple run-ins with the law.
“I think everything has to be case-by-case because no incident is the same and no situation is the same,” York said. “I think we have certainly made mistakes in the past because we’ve been too lenient.”
The 49ers have not been pressed to make any decision on Foster’s future with the club. The first team-related activity of the offseason is scheduled for April 16, when the players are scheduled to report back to Santa Clara for the opening of the offseason program.
“Any time there’s an issue like that, we’ll have a discussion,” York said. “Right now, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done with Reuben. And we’ll handle that as it comes. You don’t want to say it’s easier outside of the season, but it is easier outside of the season because you don’t need to make a decision today.
“We have to wait until that (a decision from the Santa Clara County DA's office) happens, but that will obviously be something that we get together and discuss whatever comes down when those issues come up and figure out where we move from there.”
York said a priority for the 49ers organization is to work with players proactively to prevent them from the situations in which Foster allegedly became involved during his first offseason as a professional football player. The 49ers selected Foster with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 draft after being named the best linebacker in college football after his final season at Alabama.
“From my conversations with John and Kyle, I know Reuben is very cognizant of where his position is right now, and his time with the 49ers could potentially be over if he continues to do things outside of the team that aren’t what we want him to be a part of,” York said.
“It’s been weeks. I’m not going to say we’re satisfied. This is something that’s going to be an every-day situation, and not just for Reuben, but for anybody. You want to make sure we’re maintaining the level of expectations that we have of being the right type of organization and somebody that everybody in our community can be proud of.”
When it comes to Foster – or any other member of the organization -- and how the 49ers proceed, York said Lynch and Shanahan at the top of the football side of the organization will weigh in with their opinions and suggestions. But the decision falls squarely on York’s shoulders.
“Ultimately, you can say everything is my call,” he said. “So, if it comes down to it, if there was something I’m not comfortable with but football (side) was, I would ultimately make that decision.”