Jed York said he is in “lockstep” with everything 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have said regarding Ray McDonald and, like them, he wants to let “due process” play out before acting on McDonald.
The 49ers’ de facto owner had been silent since the Aug. 31 incident that led to McDonald’s arrest on suspicion of domestic abuse. On Tuesday, however, he appeared on KNBR radio. York said he has spoken with his wife, Danielle, and his mother, Denise DeBartolo-York, who along with her husband, John, is the true owner of the team, and that he needs to see “evidence that something’s been done” before punishing McDonald.
“I would rather have someone criticize me for doing that than punishing someone who is innocent,” York said.
One week after his arrest, McDonald started at his usual spot at defensive end and played more snaps, 60, than any other 49ers lineman against the Dallas Cowboys. The decision to play McDonald was criticized in the media, including from two of the franchise’s most respected alumni, Ronnie Lott and Steve Young.
York repeated the “due process” sentiment several times, including when asked about Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension for striking his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City elevator in February.
“Each case is its own separate case,” York said. “Ray McDonald is not Ray Rice.”
York alternately spoke about allowing the “entire legal process” to play out and waiting for the current investigation to conclude as far as when the 49ers might act. That implies the team could have enough evidence to take action at any point in the process.
San Jose police have not yet presented the case to the district attorney, who then would decide whether to charge McDonald.
“Like anything, I wish that it was faster,” York said of the process. “It feels like it’s the slowest process in the world. I can’t make it speed up, and I certainly don’t want to push any investigators, any district attorneys (to) hurry up so we can figure out how to answer this from a football team standpoint. Our stance has been very clear. And when the investigation is wrapped up, I’m sure you’ll hear from me again.”
If McDonald is implicated, York said the 49ers have made their stance on domestic violence “abundantly clear. ... We’re just not going to tolerate it,” he said.
James had been the 49ers’ No. 3 option at tailback and No. 2 option at punt returner. The 49ers have just two tailbacks on the 53-man roster and have made no indication whether they will add another. Running back Kendall Gaskins is on their practice squad, and they can add him to the roster at any point this week. The team also could move Marcus Lattimore from the non-football injury list to the active roster after Week 6.
James played well when filling in for injured Kendall Hunter late in 2012 but had been used seldomly since then and had suffered an injury in each of his three offseasons with the 49ers. He was clearly behind No. 2 running back Carlos Hyde, who had an impressive debut in Dallas in averaging 7.1 yards a carry. Another rookie, Bruce Ellington, handled punt returns.
Hyde is listed as the backup kick returner on the team’s revised depth chart; Perrish Cox is the backup punt returner.
Any team that had claimed James would have had to pick up the remaining two years of his rookie contract, which averaged $717,000 per season.
Wrote James on Twitter: “Football is a sport I love but it definitely doesn't define me as a person I have so many things in life to be thankful for.”