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.