49ers

Reuben Foster to Washington is just football being football

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AP

Reuben Foster to Washington is just football being football

Well, that didn’t take long.

Reuben Foster’s unemployment has lasted a day, and he is every bit a National Football League linebacker as we was three days ago.

Foster, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday after another physical incident with his ex-girlfriend, was claimed off waivers by Washington. Presumably, terms will be reached, he will be a football player again, and his new bosses will convince themselves that they will help Foster as he helps them.

And maybe it will be so. Whatever will be of service to his long-term health is the optimal result.

[RELATED: Foster on Commissioner Exempt list]

But that isn’t what this is about, and we all know it. Washington needs a linebacker, and Foster needs a job. It’s a football problem, solved by football people, thinking football ways.

Oh, Washington put out the standard statement saying how it will comply with all the steps Foster needs to take to make himself a more complete human being, but we’ve seen the statement before, a hundred times. It seems well-meaning, but it is pure by-the-numbers justification.

The non-football problem remains because that’s the one that football people don’t have any feel for, and that’s the hard work nobody wants to take on because it is too hard. Washington will use Foster for as long as it can trust him enough to play him, and then they’ll move on just as the 49ers did.

And don’t forget that the 49ers released Foster because they couldn’t trust him any more. Kyle Shanahan said as much in his 23-minute explanation of why the team’s affection for him finally had been trumped by his inability to deal with his off-field choices.

As for Foster’s new gig, it might be better for all involved if it were put on hold, but there is no sure way for anyone to know if hold is a better place. Most people focus on the reward/punishment angle, and Foster having a new job so soon after losing the old one seems to most folks to be unfair — and like football being football for the umpteenth time.

But the league’s track record on this is poor, because it wants people to believe that football is curative by design when it is only curative by accident. At times like these, with situations like Foster’s, it is too cynical a profession to solve problems of violence. It is, frankly, too violent a profession as well.

Beyond that, this isn’t about Foster’s well-being at all, or the well-being of those women he will meet from here on out. This is really about Washington, and what its end-game is. Traditionally, the football team’s end-game is to solve a short-term problem; it needs a linebacker, the sooner the better. Reuben Foster is available to them, under hideous circumstances but available nonetheless. So, problem addressed.

Washington’s problem. Football’s problem.

And that is why in the end football isn’t capable of delivering a solution to what really ails Reuben Foster and the people he has hurt. The NFL has been unwilling to admit the limits of its therapeutic value because it gets in the way of the football-solves-everything mythmaking, and it has been unwilling to say that it really doesn’t care one way or the other.

So it chooses to show that it cares about Foster the way a carpenter cares about a nine-pound hammer — as a tool that might serve a purpose, or be disposed of in the trying.

That’s where we are at here, and all the outrage on either side is just noise. Foster is a linebacker, nothing more, nothing less, and his only way to getting healthy so that the women around him can remain so will neither be served by his playing, or not playing. Washington has helped itself because, well, that’s what teams do. He has a new team to play for because, well, that’s what he does.

And in the end, what we have is a story that has moved too fast for anyone’s comfort. Reuben Foster was a 49er, but he kept hitting women, so the 49ers got rid of him and now he plays for someone else even though the problem of him hitting women hasn't been addressed. The 30-hour visual is off-putting, but it is only because nobody is trying to pretend any longer that this is anything other than football being football for the umpteenth time.

NFL Draft 2020: Laviska Shenault compares self to 49ers' Deebo Samuel

NFL Draft 2020: Laviska Shenault compares self to 49ers' Deebo Samuel

INDIANAPOLIS -- Laviska Shenault Jr. is near the top of what is widely viewed as a deep and talented pool of wide receivers in this year’s NFL draft.

The 49ers are certain to like what they see the versatile Colorado wide receiver, and Shenault definitely is intrigued by the possibilities he sees with being a member of the 49ers. But they are unlikely to ever get a chance to select Shenault.

There will be some changes at the 49ers' wide receiver group, but the 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick and have just one selection within the first four rounds.

When asked at the NFL Scouting Combine which pro offenses he most admires, Shenault immediately identified the 49ers.

“I think there's a couple of teams, but I'd say most definitely the 49ers because with Deebo Samuel, they moved him around everywhere and just created mismatches and tried to get him the ball in different positions,” Shenault said.

Shenault is similar to Samuel with his size, strength and versatility. Samuel is 5-foot-11, 214 pounds. Shenault measured at 6-foot-and-5/8, 227 pounds. Like Samuel, Shenault turns into a running back with the ball in his hands.

In his three-season, 27-game college career, Shenault caught 149 passes for 1,943 yards and 10 touchdowns, while rushing 42 times for 280 yards and seven touchdowns.

Shenault said he liked to watch how the 49ers lined up Samuel in a lot of different spots. And Samuel was his answer when asked to which NFL wide receiver he is most similar.

“Deebo Samuel definitely did a lot of moving around and just getting the ball in different places,” Shenault said.

[RELATED: 49ers should watch these receivers during the combine

The 49ers selected Samuel in the second round with the No. 36 overall selection a year ago. Samuel caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. He also carried 14 times for 159 yards and three touchdowns. Samuel set a Super Bowl record for receivers with three carries for 53 yards.

That’s how Shenault believes he can make an immediate impact in the NFL.

“I think my versatility is a good thing,” Shenault said. “I don't want to be in one spot. Then, I wouldn't get that many balls or attempts. I want to be able to move everywhere. I want to be able to create mismatches everywhere on the field.”

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

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USATSI

Kyle Shanahan's Super Bowl loss with 49ers lingers more than Falcons'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Kyle Shanahan answered countless questions about losing to the New England Patriots with the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI during the week leading up to Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers coach lost again after all the questions, this time to the Kansas City Chiefs. He's grieving all over again and having a more difficult time reconciling this time around. 

“I think this one was harder than the last one,” Shanahan said Tuesday from the NFL Scouting Combine. “The last one was a bigger loss, I mean at the end and stuff. I just thought we were a better team. The hardest thing for me is I thought we were the best team in the NFL.

“And when you really believe that, and I thought it for a while, it wasn’t just like the last couple weeks of the year. In Atlanta, we kind of got hot at the end of the year, so I felt pretty fortunate.”

Shanahan's 2016 Falcons and his 2019 49ers entered the playoffs with a first-round bye.  The difference is that the 49ers started the 2019 season with an 8-0 run, and finished with a 13-3 regular-season record, clinching the No. 1 seed.

The 2016 Falcons, however, had a 5-3 record at the halfway point. Atlanta won its last four straight games to clinch the No. 2 seed, but played two playoff home games only because the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys lost in the divisional round to the Green Bay Packers. 

[RELATED: 49ers want to bring everyone back, but know it will be tough]

The 49ers have come a long way under Shanahan. They had a fourth-quarter lead in the Super Bowl after winning the 10 games the previous two seasons, but it's difficult to focus on the journey following a painful ending. 

“This year I thought we had it,” Shanahan said. “We were the second-worst team in the league last year, and now we got to live with being the second-best, which I’m proud of. But that is harder, because I truly believe it was there for us.”