The San Francisco 49ers announced Sunday morning that they released linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest Saturday night for suspected domestic battery of his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Elissa Ennis.
Foster, 24, was arrested by Tampa Police just after 9 p.m. Eastern time at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, the night before the 49ers were scheduled to play the Buccaneers. Foster was charged with first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence and spent the night in jail.
A Hillborough County criminal affidavit confirms the alleged victim was Ennis, who accused the linebacker of domestic violence during an incident in February at their shared home in Los Gatos, Calif. On the witness stand in May, she recanted her claim that Foster of assaulted her in retaliation for their breakup. A Santa Clara County judge dismissed the felony domestic violence charges largely because of Ennis’ testimony and the case never went to trial.
Police said Foster and Ennis on Saturday got into a verbal confrontation, according to the affidavit. Ennis told police said Foster slapped a phone from her hand, pushed her in “the chest area,” and slapped her with an open hand to the left side of her face. Ennis was left with a one-inch scratch on her left collar bone, according to the report.
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The 49ers’ entire statement Sunday morning read, “The San Francisco 49ers today announced they are releasing Reuben Foster,” and the team provided no further comment.
Foster was suspended for the first two games of the 2018 regular season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies relating to marijuana possession charges in Alabama last January and possession of a loaded assault rifle found on the floor of his bathroom during his arrest following the first incident with Ennis.
The 49ers stuck with Foster through his trial during the offseason, despite his two arrests and multiple charges, and kept him on the roster. He wasn’t allowed to rejoin the team until the domestic violence charges were dropped. Saturday’s incident, however, seemed to be the last straw.
“If there’s someone who ever hits their significant other, girlfriends, some person like that, that person is not going to be on our team,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said April 26. “I feel strongly about that. I know John (Lynch) does. I know our ownership does. ... if that’s something that we felt he did or ended up happening, you guys will see how we feel.”
Foster was taken with the 31st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former Alabama star won the Butkus Award in 2016 given the country’s top linebacker in college football. He was widely considered a top-10 talent but his draft stock dropped due to concerns about his habits off the field and ongoing issues with an injured shoulder that required surgery following his final college season.
Foster was kicked out of the 2017 NFL combine for getting into an altercation with a hospital worker while waiting to take a physical. It was later revealed he failed a drug test with a dilute sample. His draft party was sponsored by a vaporizer company.
Lynch, who used his second draft choice on Foster after becoming a first-time general manager two months earlier, stood by the Foster selection despite questions about Foster away from football.
“I would anticipate people maybe questioning some of his character, but I would tell you his character’s what drew us to him,” Lynch said after drafting Foster. “When you start talking football with this young man he lights up a room, and he’s a good kid. I believe in the kid and I think it’s going to be, he’s going to be a great player for this organization for a long time.
“I feel really good not only because we got a great player, because I think we’re going to have a great plan for the young man both on the field and we care about the kid.”
Foster was expected to play against the Buccaneers on Sunday after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury suffered in the Oct. 7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. During his tenure with San Francisco, Foster missed 10 of 26 possible games due to injury or suspension.
The 49ers will likely replace Foster with veteran Malcolm Smith in the lineup next to rookie third-round pick Fred Warner, who leads the team with 76 tackles and hasn’t missed a game.