SANTA CLARA — 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, his staff and several of his players hoped they could help troubled Reuben Foster down the right path.
Ultimately, they were unsuccessful.
“I had a number of players, when I told them yesterday [that the 49ers were releasing Foster], they apologized,” Shanahan said Monday, two days after his now-former-linebacker’s arrest on a domestic violence charge. “They were like, ‘Sorry Kyle, we wish we could have done more. We really wanted to help.’ That’s kind of how we all felt.”
Shanahan reiterated that a string of bad decisions by Foster led to his release. There was hope, and a structure in place, to help the second-year pro stay on the straight and narrow after his arrest on a previous domestic violence charge earlier this year.
Austin Moss, the 49ers’ director of player engagement, spoke to Foster daily, either in person or on the phone. Shanahan described it as “putting a lot of work" into Foster. Shanahan added that the 49ers supported Foster not only through his earlier domestic violence case, but also since his arrival in Santa Clara, all while knowing of his numerous past transgressions.
Shanahan said he personally checked in with Foster. The coach admitted he did know that Foster still spoke to his on-again-off-again girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, at times, but he did not know if they were living together.
To know that, Shanahan explained, someone would’ve had to been living with Foster. In his opinion, Shanahan would rather the player expose themselves at that point so the team would be able to move on.
Shanahan also was adamant that neither he, nor anyone with the 49ers, knew about the most recently unearthed incident between Foster and Ennis, which happened in early October, Santa Clara police said.
If Shanahan or the team had found out about that incident, Foster’s 49ers end might have come one month earlier. Instead, Foster’s arrest Saturday in Tampa, Fla., was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
“I thought rock bottom was last time,” Shanahan said. “And I thought it would be very simple that that would be his wake-up call. And I think it was, in a lot of areas.
“But to put yourself in the situation that he put himself in, whether it happened or not, if it happened, it’s so easy, but if it didn’t, that still was too bad of a decision to make us comfortable with keeping that person in our organization."
While Shanahan and the organization were swift in their decision to release the linebacker, the coach still feels compassion for Foster, and he tried to call him a couple of times after his release.
"I’m very disappointed in him,” Shanahan said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t care about him. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a relationship with him. He’s not dead to me because this happened."
Shanahan explains that some of his compassion for Foster comes from knowing about the linebacker’s difficult childhood.
“I’ve heard some really bad situations of kids growing up,” Shanahan said. “And Reuben grew up in as bad of one as I’ve ever heard. That’s where I feel it’s been hard for him to be the same way as everyone else.
“I do believe in his heart. I have hope I’m not wrong in that. Shame on me if I am, but I also know that he’s shown that we can’t trust his decision-making.”