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What will NFL do with Reuben Foster case?


SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 26: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks evades Reuben Foster #56 of the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Lachlan Cunningham

49ers linebacker Reuben Foster has found trouble twice in less than a month, with his latest arrest being the most problematic.

As explained by the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sunday morning incident arises from charges of domestic violence, threats, and possession of an assault weapon. The call came at roughly 9:15 a.m. local time, and Foster was released on $75,000 bail at 6:35 p.m.

The San Jose Mercury News, via the Chronicle, reports that the alleged victim has been in a “long-term relationship” with Foster, and that police found what appeared to be an assault rifle when they responded.

The 49ers have issued the perfunctory statement about being “aware of the report” and taking “matters of this nature seriously,” and “gathering all pertinent information.” More than three years after the Ray Rice case, it’s now abundantly clear that what the team says or does doesn’t matter nearly as much as what the league office says and does.

Paid leave is possible for Foster, but the league in past cases has not felt compelled to initiate this device at a time when there’s nothing from which to be on paid leave; the players are off until the start of the offseason program in April. An investigation will definitely happen, with the league making its own decisions about what did and didn’t occur, regardless of whether Foster is or isn’t ultimately deemed to be guilty of a crime.

The baseline punishment for a domestic violence is now six games, but it’s a sliding scale based on factors that the league may or may not ever publicly disclose (e.g., Josh Brown’s one-game suspension). Presumably, the league will figure out what it wants to do before the start of the 2018 season, imposing discipline that will be very difficult for Foster to challenge, as evidenced by both the Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott lawsuits.

So, to answer the question is the headline to this item -- what will the NFL do? -- is the same answer that applies to every other incident involving off-field misconduct by a player: Whatever it wants. In the aftermath of Elliott, it’s now more clear than ever that the league’s internal procedures may be delayed but will never be defeated, no matter how illogical, inconsistent, or patently unfair to the player they may be.