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NFL suspends San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster

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49ers linebacker Reuben Foster has raw, undeniable talent. But how much are his on-field skills shaping personal matters away from the gridiron? (Stan Olszewski/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

The NFL has officially announced the suspension of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster for a violation of the NFL’s Conduct and Substances of Abuse policies.

Foster, who will be fined and suspended without pay for the first two games of the 2018 regular season, at one time faced four different charges this offseason, with three originally felonies. The violations stem from a weapons offense and a misdemeanor drug offense, both of which were resolved earlier this year.

“I accept the League’s decision and am sorry that my mistakes have hurt my team,” Foster said in a statement. “I have a responsibility to the 49ers, our fans and our community, and I am committed to learning from this situation and making better choices in the future. The support I have received over the last five months has been humbling, and I do not take it for granted.”

Foster has undergone a tumultuous offseason, during which he was arrested twice in the span of a month soon after the end of the 2017-18 season. In January, he was arrested in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for possession of marijuana — a misdemeanor — and he was arrested again following a Feb. 11 incident in Los Gatos, Calif., which involved two charges related to domestic violence and a weapons charge.

Elissa Ennis, Foster’s ex-girlfriend, initially accused Foster of domestic violence, before recanting her story a couple of days following her initial complaint. She then testified under oath at a May 17 preliminary hearing that she had lied about Foster hitting her. She also testified that the injuries she showed to authorities were the result of a fight with another woman on the night of Feb. 10. Two charges related to domestic violence were dismissed by Judge Nona L. Klippen on May 23, citing lack of evidence.

That same day, Klippen reduced the weapons charge to a misdemeanor, given that the weapon — a SIG Sauer 516 — was purchased legally in Alabama, and though it was not legal in California, it had not been used in a crime. A month ago, Foster pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge related to possession of the weapon, and was sentenced to 232 hours of community service and two years of probation, during which he is barred from the possession of any guns or ammunition. He was also ordered to pay $235 in total fines and surrender the weapon.

Prosecutors had argued that the weapons charge should remain a felony, seeing as Foster had stored it in an unsafe manner — it was found fully loaded and capable of firing up to 31 bullets while sitting on the floor of a basement bathroom.

The marijuana charge in Alabama was dismissed on May 25 after he completed a diversion course, and paid a $100 bail bond fee.

“Our organization understands and supports the League’s decision,” said San Francisco general manager John Lynch. “Although we are disappointed that Reuben will not be with our team for the first two games of the season, we will continue to work with him on making better decisions and eliminating unnecessary distractions. We are encouraged to see Reuben take responsibility for his mistakes, and hopeful that he has learned from them as well.”

Foster, who was a first-round draft pick in 2017 despite a diluted urine sample he gave at the NFL scouting combine, is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games. He will be able to return to the active roster on Monday, Sept. 17, following the team’s Sept. 16 game against the Detroit Lions.

Foster was a 2017 first-round pick after he failed a drug test at the NFL scouting combine when his urine sample was found to be diluted. That, in addition to his offseason legal issues, could factor in to any potential league punishment.

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