Ahmad Brooks flew back to California on Thursday morning after being charged with misdemeanor sexual battery Wednesday, and he won’t be with the 49ers at least through Saturday.
How long his banishment lasts or whether it becomes permanent has not been decided, 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said before Thursday’s joint practice with the Broncos.
“Where it goes from here, I don’t have that answer right now,” Baalke said. “I don’t have enough information regarding the situation right now. All I can speak of is today, and today Ahmad is away from this football team.”
In the past nine months, the 49ers have quickly cut ties with players who have run afoul of the law multiple times. They released Ray McDonald after he became part of a police investigation in December, citing a pattern of poor decisions. And they released Aldon Smith earlier this month after his arrest on suspicion of DUI, hit and run and vandalism.
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There will be no sudden move with Brooks, who also has a history of police-blotter appearances.
“No two situations are the same,” Baalke said. “Any time players are involved in an off-the-field situation, we take those matters seriously.”
Another player, fullback Bruce Miller, was removed from the team after he was arrested in March following an argument with his then-fiancée. Miller didn’t return to practice until June, when he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace. Baalke said he didn’t know if Brooks’ situation would follow a similar course.
Baalke said the NFL is reviewing Brooks’ case, per the league’s personal-conduct policy. If Brooks is put on the “commissioner’s exempt list,” he would have to stay away from the team’s facility, could not play in games and wouldn’t count against the 53-man roster. But he would continue to receive his base salary.
On several occasions during a roughly 20-minute interview, Baalke stressed that Wednesday’s charge was “not a new matter but a new development within that matter.” The 49ers have known that Brooks was part of a police investigation since at least May when he was named in a civil lawsuit by the alleged victim.
“Up to this point, there were just allegations,” Baalke said when asked why Brooks was allowed to be with the team in the months since the civil suit was filed and his involvement in a police investigation became known. “There was no arrest, there were no charges. There was a known civil suit brought against him. With the new development, we just felt that it was the best course of action at this time for both him and the organization.”
In 2013, Brooks was cited in a police report for hitting then-teammate Lamar Divens on the head with a beer bottle and punching him in the face, but charges were not filed. While playing for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, Brooks was accused of punching a woman in the eye in Kentucky. Later that year, Brooks told reporters the case had been expunged, and the Boone County (Ky.) District Court has no record of it.
Last year, Brooks missed most of one game after arguing with coaches, specifically then-defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula, on the sideline. He was suspended for another game after missing a team meeting.
If Brooks is released or misses an extended period, as Miller did, the 49ers will begin the regular season with only one defensive player, linebacker NaVorro Bowman, who started the Super Bowl in February 2013.
During Thursday’s practice, second-year player Aaron Lynch lined up at one of the outside linebacker spots. Third-year player Corey Lemonier was at the other. The top backup at this point is rookie Eli Harold.
Bowman called Brooks’ absence “a big loss” but said the young players will have to step forward.
“Corey, Aaron and Eli – they’re good,” Bowman said after practice. “They’re young. I was young at a point in time. It’s up to them what they want to do. But the opportunity is there for them.”
At the time of the civil suit, Brooks was enrolled in the team’s internal player engagement program. Baalke said the 49ers have tripled resources in that area, both monetarily and in staffing, in the last year.
It’s the 13th time a 49ers player has been arrested or charged with a crime since 2012, and Baalke insisted the focus is on making sure there are no more incidents.
“Trust me,” he said. “We’re doing what we can. And that’s the frustration.”