San Francisco 49ers

Why Reuben Foster won't take part in the 49ers' offseason program

San Francisco 49ers draft pick Reuben Foster answers questions at a news conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday, April 28, 2017.
San Francisco 49ers draft pick Reuben Foster answers questions at a news conference in Santa Clara, Calif., on Friday, April 28, 2017. AP

The 49ers' offseason program will begin Monday without linebacker Reuben Foster, who was charged last week with three felonies stemming from a February incident with his girlfriend.

The team on Sunday issued a statement it said was from CEO Jed York, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.

"Rueben Foster will not participate in team activities as he is tending to his legal matters," it read. "As previously stated, his future with the team will be determined by the information revealed during the legal process."

The offseason program is the de facto start of the new season for players. The voluntary sessions begin with strength and conditioning, then move to on-field work with coaches and finally the so-called OTA practice sessions, which end in June.

Foster, who has been working out on his own at the team facility since his legal troubles began, will not do so alongside his teammates, although the team is likely to continue to provide support and assistance in other ways while the matter goes through the court system.

Foster, 24, was charged Thursday with domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, forcefully attempted to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and possessed an assault weapon. According to local prosecutors, Foster's 28-year-old girlfriend had to flag down a passing car after he threw her out of his Los Gatos house. She was taken to an area hospital with bruises and a ruptured eardrum.

Foster is free on $75,000 bond and has a plea hearing on April 30.

The 49ers' move with Foster is similar to the one they made with former fullback Bruce Miller in 2015 after he was accused of shoving his girlfriend and destroying her cellphone. Miller was told to stay away from the team facility that spring.

The charges were reduced to vandalism after the girlfriend recanted her initial police report, and Miller ultimately pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace. He was welcomed back to the team when the court case concluded but was cut a year later following an ugly incident in San Francisco in which the fullback attacked an elderly man and his son in a hotel.

Miller didn't return to the team facility until his 2015 legal matter was resolved. Foster's case is more serious and could last into the regular season.

Both the Santa Clara County district attorney's office and Foster's defense team seem resolute in their respective positions, with assistant district attorney Kevin Smith signaling Thursday that he would go ahead with the trial even if Foster's girlfriend refuses to testify, something that has undermined the prosecution in previous assault cases involving 49ers players.

Foster also is facing a misdemeanor marijuana charge in Alabama. His next hearing there is scheduled for May 2.

With Foster unavailable, the 49ers' top two linebackers this spring will be Malcolm Smith and recent free-agent addition Korey Toomer. The 49ers re-signed Brock Coyle, who started 10 games last year, but he is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The team also has Elijah Lee, Mark Nzeocha and Donavin Newsom at the position.

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