With the prosecution's case weakening, 49ers and Foster close to getting what they desire

With the prosecution's case weakening, 49ers and Foster close to getting what they desire

The prosecution’s case in the Reuben Foster domestic violence hearing seemingly continues to weaken, and now the judge will decide whether there is enough usable evidence to continue the trial at all.

With a recantation under oath by the alleged victim, Elissa Ennis, and a claim that she had made a false accusation of battery against a former boyfriend in Louisiana that has not yet been confirmed, she seems at first and second glance like a perfectly dreadful prosecution witness. Indeed, her testimony at Thursday’s preliminary hearing was harmful mostly to her, and that this case may be reduced to that old Law & Order line of questioning, “Were you lying then, or are you lying now?”

None of this, of course, is the same as proving that Foster, the 49ers’ promising linebacker, did not lay hands on Ennis in the manner she claimed back in February. It does seem to indicate, though, that the Santa Clara County district attorney either has to hope the evidence gathered at the hospital of the beating she originally claimed was delivered by Foster does not match her claim that she incurred the injuries in a fight with another woman, or that the judge, Nora Klippen, determines that the prosecution cannot clear the reasonable doubt hurdle.

And the same bar almost surely allows him to continue his career with the San Francisco football team, as the team has desired all along. General manager John Lynch has maintained that (a) they believe Foster’s denials and (b) he would have to be found to have beaten her to lose his job, which presumably means only a conviction would satisfy them.

[RELATED: After hours of emotional and conflicting testimony, ruling on Reuben Foster to come May 23]

This would seem to fall under the old talent/tolerance scale for legal transgressions by sports and entertainment figures – that if one is talented enough, tolerance will follow. The 49ers’ official stance on domestic violence incidents has been, to put it politely, exceedingly flexible, but unless the prosecution can somehow rehabilitate their chief witness’ credibility against her will, their decision to defer action has probably helped both them and Foster in their main goal – keeping him employed by them.

Klippen is expected to rule next Wednesday on a motion to dismiss the case, and she may determine that Ennis' recantation Thursday was less believable than her original claims. There is a history in domestic violence cases of genuine victims walking back their stories out of fear, so this likely will not have a clean ending either way.

But we should learn this coming Wednesday whether it has a clean enough ending. The evidence will have to overcome a high bar though – the victim’s insistence that Elissa Ennis was indeed lying then and telling the truth now, rather than the other way around.

How Nick Mullens showed continued improvement in 49ers' win over Seahawks

How Nick Mullens showed continued improvement in 49ers' win over Seahawks

SANTA CLARA — Nick Mullens proved he can play in the NFL, but he still gave a ton of credit to his teammates for the 49ers' 26-23 win over the Seahawks on Sunday. 

As usual, there were a few throws the quarterback would like to have back, like the two intended for tight end George Kittle that were potential touchdowns. But in the end, there was a happy ending to the story, and the 49ers walked out of Levi’s Stadium with their fourth win of the season.

“I was just so proud that we found a way to win,” Mullens said. “Might not have been the prettiest. Everybody worked well together. When we were passing the ball, that was cool. But when we didn’t do good passing the ball, we ran the ball well.

"Then, when we didn’t convert on offense, the defense stepped up, and then the special-teams touchdown. So, if you want to look at a textbook, collective team win, I believe that was it.”

Mullens had a respectable day. He completed 20 of his 29 passes for 275 yards and one touchdown, giving him a 110.6 rating. He did enough for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan to not make a move at QB for another week.

Mullens also might have done enough for people outside of the building to really take notice. 

Early in the fourth quarter, Mullens threw a perfect 30-yard pass toward the right sideline, where wide receiver Dante Pettis hauled in a catch that Seahawks defensive back Shaquil Griffin had no chance of covering. 

“Yeah, it was man coverage,” Mulllens said. “It’s a play that we like against man coverage. As long as I just held the safety, then I like Dante on the matchup. He did a great job of giving me space to throw it and made a great catch with a wet ball. So, it was a great play.”

Mullens obviously has grown more comfortable since his first start under center, in Week 9 against the Raiders. Shanahan said he continues to see Mullens progressing six weeks later.

“The more guys play,” Shanahan said. “and the more success they have, the more confidence they get. He did a great job that second half throwing the ball two weeks ago [against the Seahawks in Seattle]. 

“I thought we had a lot more success throwing the ball today. We struggled on third downs from what I remember today in the second half, and we didn’t get to stay on the field as long and get those opportunities. I think Nick is getting better the more he plays.”

[RELATED: Why 49ers stopping skid vs. Seahawks is more important than draft position]

Mullens believes that playing the same team twice in three weeks helped the 49ers prepare, ultimately allowing them to snap a 10-game losing streak against their NFC West rivals. 

“I think the previous game against Seattle helped us a lot,” Mullens said. “I really felt like there were places we could attack them. Even in the first game, we just didn’t do a very good job of it. So, we were excited coming in. We knew it was going to be a dog fight.” 

The 49ers' sense of urgency definitely has turned around since that lackadaisical start in Seattle. Mullens said it was evident in the locker room before Sunday's win.

“We knew they were confident," Mullens said. "We were confident. Obviously, the rivalry and things like that. Those are the games you get pumped up to play in. 

“Like Coach said last night, ‘I don’t even have to tell you all anything. If you’re not pumped up for this, then something’s wrong with you.’ So, that’s kind of how I felt going into the game and how we felt. We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”

Revenge vs. Seahawks sweet for Richard Sherman, but young 49ers' play sweeter

Revenge vs. Seahawks sweet for Richard Sherman, but young 49ers' play sweeter

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers' overtime win over the Seahawks on Sunday meant just a little more to Richard Sherman after the way his departure unfolded in Seattle.

Outwardly, however, the veteran cornerback was like a proud parent after he watched all of San Francisco's younger players who “stepped up to the moment” at Levi's Stadium.

“Honestly, it means a lot beating Seattle for me,” Sherman said after the 26-23 win. “But it’s just the way the guys showed up and kept battling throughout the game. This was a tough game.”

While Sherman was complimentary of the younger 49ers, he appeared to bring a little extra to the game, although he said he does that every week. It especially was noticeable, though, when he laid out Chris Carson on a fourth-quarter hit, and the Seahawks running back was seen very little on the field after that.

“He stayed up and was fighting for extra yards, and I wasn’t going to have it," Sherman said. "I wasn’t going to have it. I locked in full speed, and I’m laying heavy every chance I get.”

Sherman was impressed by the three rookies in the 49ers' secondary also bringing a little extra. Early in the first quarter, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon left the game with a knee injury, and rookie Tarvarius Moore stepped in as the next man up. Rookies D.J. Reed and Marcell Harris rounded out San Francisco's secondary in place of K’Waun Williams and Jaquiski Tartt, both of whom missed the game with injuries.

Moore ended the day with five solo tackles, two assists and two pass break-ups, impressing Sherman.

“I hope he gets a lot of credit for what he did today,” Sherman said of the third-round draft pick from Southern Miss. “He went out there today and stepped up to the moment in a big way. I think he gave up one catch and forced an incompletion on third down. Tackled well, shot his gun.

“A lot of times you get out there and you play hesitant. You’re scared to mess up, scared to make a mistake. He didn’t play like that. He went out there and played exactly how he practiced. We’re proud of him. I’m incredibly proud of him.”

Added Sherman: "You have to understand that we're doing this with guys who have played probably less than 100 snaps in their career. Especially in the back end, and they are playing their balls … they are playing their butts off."

While Sherman defected attention away from himself in his “revenge game” against the Seahawks, with whom he spent seven seasons, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged the additional meaning this win had for his veteran cornerback.

“Yeah, I just saw him in the locker room,” Shanahan said. “Anytime you get to play against your former team, especially a team that he had a career like he did for them, I know he was happy. Talked to him in there, just gave him a hug, didn’t say much, but it’s a big deal for guys, and I was really happy for Sherman to get that.”

[RELATED: Shanahan relieved 49ers' skid vs. Seahawks is history]

Sherman was asked if he believed the Seahawks overlooked the 49ers, given Seattle's 43-16 win over San Francisco two weeks ago. He wasn't buying it.

"I highly doubt it," he said. "Just like I'm pretty inflammatory on the other side, I'm pretty inflammatory on both sides. My truth isn't always everybody's truth. ... I highly doubt Pete [Carroll, the Seahawks' coach] is overlooking a game I'm playing, and Russell [Wilson, the Seahawks' QB] as well."

What wasn't hard to overlook was just how different the 49ers looked. And the role Sherman and his young teammates played in it.