The 49ers can say plenty of things, or nothing at all, about the arrest of linebacker Reuben Foster for domestic violence. One thing the 49ers can’t say is that they had no reason to believe Foster may do something he shouldn’t have done.
Foster became one of the rare players to be kicked out of the multi-day job interview in Indianapolis after an altercation with a health-care worker. It put every team on notice that there could be an issue with Foster’s temper, and each team either struck his name from the draft board or did extra work to ensure that they were investing draft capital and cash in someone who may get in trouble, on or off the field.
The 49ers chose the former, and it caused them to ultimately put Foster among their top two prospects.
“I’m proud of that,” G.M. John Lynch said of the work the organization did to vet Foster, on the same day that the team traded back into round one to get him with pick No. 31. “We were exhaustive in our getting to know the kid. We met with him at the Combine. We had him out here for a visit. Kyle [Shanahan] and I both spent a lot of time on the phone with him, facetiming. And then, I think when we really started to zero in and get really serious, we sent [vice president of football affairs] Keena Turner and Pastor Earl [Smith] down to Tuscaloosa to meet with Reuben for two days and they had a tremendous visit.
“We kept in contact with him. Young man’s going to be disappointed. He felt like he was one of the better players. But, I can also tell you that this was a place where Reuben wanted to be. He indicated that numerous times. Whether he told everybody else that, I don’t know. But, it felt genuine and I think that’s something we love about Reuben is that he’s a really genuine young man. He’s got a smile that lights up a room and the way he plays football’s special.”
The 49ers felt so strongly about Foster that Lynch made it clear that, if the Bears had taken Solomon Thomas after the flip-flop trade that gave Chicago the second overall pick and San Francisco the third, Lynch and the 49ers would have taken Foster with the third overall selection.
Now, they have to worry about losing Foster for six games in 2018, maybe more. (Indeed, the incident at the Scouting Combine — which kept Foster from being invited to the draft — could be regarded as an aggravating factor that would result in a longer suspension.) They likewise have to worry about whether Foster, who has been arrested twice in less than a month, may end up being their next Aldon Smith.