San Francisco 49ers

49ers GM John Lynch: Reuben Foster failed to live up to agreement with organization

49ers release LB Reuben Foster following latest arrest for domestic violence

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.
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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.

Reuben Foster didn’t live up to his end of the bargain and it ultimately led to his release from the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday morning while he sat in a Tampa jail cell, under arrest on charges of domestic battery.

“I can tell you that it was a situation where we laid out some very specific ground rules for Reuben, as we do for all our players,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said, an hour before his team played the Buccaneers. “We had a set of standards in place that the players were involved with in developing. In this case, it was communicated exceptionally clear and to the point, as to what we expected out of him.”

The 49ers stood by Foster after he was charged with felony domestic violence last April, stemming from an altercation with his live-in girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, who was the alleged victim during an incident at the 49ers’ team hotel Saturday night.

Lynch found out about Foster’s arrest while at dinner. He said the decision to release the second-year linebacker was made in conjunction with coach Kyle Shanahan and ownership following a string of off-field issues since Foster was made the No. 31 overall draft pick in 2017. Lynch said he had not spoken to Foster directly, as he was incarcerated.

“Unfortunately, what transpired yesterday, this isn’t a comment on what happened there, because that would be mere speculation on our part,” Lynch said. “It was more of a comment on him not living up to what we had communicated. To the energy, the time that we’ve invested into him. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him. We all do. We care for him. But we feel like it’s in the best interest of (the) organization to move on at this point.

“That’s a very tough decision. I want to be clear that this an organizational decision. This is, Kyle and I talked last night, we brought it to ownership. We’re all lock-step in the decision. It was not easy on anybody.”

Foster, 24, was arrested Saturday by Tampa Police just after 9 p.m. Eastern time at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence and spent the night in jail.

A Hillsborough 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 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.

Lynch wouldn’t say if the team tried to prevent Foster from associating with Ennis but noted the rules in place were clear and Foster understood the expectations.

“The really sad thing is he had shown some, of late in particular, he was really taking some really positive steps and maturing in a really nice fashion,” Lynch said. “Unfortunately in life, there’s consequences for your actions and when you show bad judgment, particularly after something’s been communicated very clearly, what the expectations are, there are consequences.

Foster and Ennis on Saturday got into a verbal confrontation, according to the affidavit. Ennis told police 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 collarbone, according to the report.

Lynch was asked if he regretted drafting Foster, despite questions about his habits away from the field, including getting kicked out of the 2017 NFL combine for getting into an altercation with a hospital employee and failing a drug test with a diluted sample.

“I don’t. I think we learned from it,” he said. “You have to learn from every situation. Ultimately, these guys are human beings and they’re young men, and they’re fallible. I think one thing we have to do, we have to learn from the process, and we have and we will. At the same (time), you can’t play scared.”

Here’s a full transcript of Lynch’s six-minute interview session with reporters before the 49ers played the Buccaneers (questions are paraphrased):

Opening statement

So everyone’s aware based upon our statement, what decision we made today. I could tell it’s extremely disappointing for me, for Kyle, for ownership, for everybody in here, because we care a lot about Reuben. I can tell you that it was a situation where we laid out some very specific ground rules for Reuben, as we do for all our players. We had a set of standards in place that the players were involved with in developing. In this case, it was communicated exceptionally clear and to the point, as to what we expected out of him.

Unfortunately, what transpired yesterday, this isn’t a comment on what happened there, because that would be mere speculation on our part. It was more of a comment on him not living up to what we had communicated. To the energy, the time that we’ve invested into him. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him. We all do. We care for him. But we feel like it’s in the best interest of organization to move on at this point. That’s a very tough decision. I want to be clear that this an organizational decision. This is, Kyle and I talked last night, we brought it to ownership. We’re all lock-step in the decision. It was not easy on anybody. With that, I’ll open it up to some questions.

Q: When you’re saying the standard, are you saying you didn’t want him associated with a certain person?

Listen, Matt, I don’t want to get into what the specifics of that. But I will say, after the events of the offseason, we were very clear with him and I think very fair. He understood exactly what that was. The really sad thing is he had shown some, of late in particular, he was really taking some really positive steps and maturing in a really nice fashion. Unfortunately in life, there’s consequences for your actions and when you show bad judgment, particularly after something’s been communicated very clearly, what the expectations are, there are consequences. I think one lesson I’ve learned being around this league for 30 years now in different capacities, is that nobody is bigger than the team. That’s ultimately what this decision came down to for us.

Q: What kind of communication did you have with Foster yesterday?

Unfortunately, I haven’t. I was at dinner when this all transpired. At that point, it was in the hands of the police department and, as of right now, he’s still not out. So I have yet to be able to able to speak to Reuben. I will. I look forward to that. Like I said, I care about the kid. I care about his future. That goes not only for me, but everybody in there.

Q: When you drafted him, you knew there were off-field risks. You acknowledged that. You regret making that choice?

I don’t. I think we learned from it. You have to learn from every situation. Ultimately, these guys are human beings and they’re young men, and they’re fallible. I think one thing we have to do, we have to learn from the process, and we have and we will. At the same (time), you can’t play scared. You got to trust your evaluations and remember back to, and I’m not making an excuse, and you sit in these draft meetings and there’s a lot of information that comes out on these kids. Like I said, they’re fallible, this wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of them. Ultimately, we have to own it, and I own it. But I think most of all, it’s just disappointment.

Today, we have a game to play, and I think our guys are in a good frame of mind to go do that and excited to watch this game.

Q: Why was she allowed in the hotel in the first place?

Well, I don’t know if that’s accurate that she was allowed. These hotels, Matt, we have our highly secured on our two floors. We have two floors in each hotel, sometimes three. Those floors are heavily secured, and as are the areas, the meeting rooms and the meal areas. And so those are always, these are public places. We don’t go in and take the entire hotel over. Players are always able to get hotel rooms for friends, family. And we’ll just leave it at that without any specifics.

Q: Are you saying the incident occurred in an area apart from those secured (areas in the hotel)?

To my understanding, yes. It was not on our floors. I can say that unequivocally.

Q: You guys stood by Reuben through some of the things, you get to this point and make a decision before the legal process plays out this time. Is it just a function of the trust is gone? Is it as simple as that?

Well, like I said, prior to that last incident, we had communicated with Reuben, we had invested a lot of energy and resources into him. We did so even more so after. We stuck by him for a reason. And I think that was, fortunately he was able to come back to us. And unfortunately, yesterday, what transpired, one of our tenants is ‘protect the team.’ He didn’t protect the team. And like I said, nobody’s bigger than the team. As talented as a player as he was, as many positive steps as he was making, we felt like this was the best decision to make.

Q: How was the team made aware of this? Did you address the team, did Kyle?

Well a lot of this, we first got wind at some time last night. But meetings were over and all that. The team was addressed in the locker room today. We’re going to go play a game. Kyle can choose to or not choose to speak further on that.

Q: Up until last night, did Reuben have any other missteps during this regular season?

He’s been doing a real good job, Eric. He really has. I mentioned the progress he’s been making. He has in a lot of areas of his life. Unfortunately, yesterday showed extremely poor judgment. And for that we made this decision.

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