Washington Redskins claim Reuben Foster off waivers, explain move

When the San Francisco 49ers officially released thrice-arrested linebacker Reuben Foster on Monday, head coach Kyle Shanahan expressed his hope that the release would be what finally turned the former Butkus Award winner out of Alabama around.

“Hopefully this is rock bottom for him and he can fix himself,” Shanahan said.

Rock bottom lasted all of a day. After three arrests in the span of less than 12 months, including two for alleged domestic violence, Foster was released on Monday at 1 p.m., and then had a new team by Tuesday afternoon.

After being arrested on suspicion of domestic battery Saturday night in Tampa and spending the night in jail, Foster was claimed off of waivers by the Washington Redskins, first reported by Adam Schefter of ESPN. According to multiple reports, Washington was the only team to put in a waiver claim.

Foster was also placed on the commissioner’s exempt list upon his acquisition, and will not be eligible to practice or play while the NFL investigates the matter.

In January, Foster was charged with second-degree marijuana possession in Alabama, which was later dropped after he completed a diversion program. In his Los Gatos home on Feb. 11, Foster was involved in a dispute with on-and-off girlfriend of three years Elissa Ennis, after which he was charged for domestic violence, making criminal threats and weapons possession (a Sig Sauer 516 SBR).

In May, a Santa Clara County Superior Court judge ruled there was no probable cause on the first two charges in the February incident, after Ennis recanted the allegations, saying variously that she wanted to get him cut from the team as revenge for wanting to break up with her, and that it was a “money scheme.” The weapons charge was reduced to a misdemeanor and Foster pleaded no contest to that in June. He was sentenced to two years of probation, 232 hours of community service and issued a $235 fine.

The drug and weapon charge got him a two-game suspension from the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies.

On Monday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Foster and Ennis had a verbal altercation this October which merited a call to the police.

Reuben Foster’s booking photo, taken the night of Nov. 24, 2018. (Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department)

On Saturday night at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, the 49ers team hotel, Foster and a woman who has been reported to be Ennis were involved in an altercation which turned violent when Foster slapped the victim’s phone out of her hand, pushed her in her chest and slapped her with an open hand. Foster was arrested on one count of first-degree misdemeanor domestic-violence battery.

“I thought rock bottom was last time and I thought it would be very simple that that would be his wakeup call, and I think it was in a lot of areas,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “But, to put yourself in the situation that he put himself in, whether it happened or not, if it happened it’s so easy, but if it didn’t, that still was too bad of a decision to make us comfortable with keeping that person in our organization.”

In explaining the acquisition of someone who has had repeated lapses in judgement, and repeated accusations of domestic violence, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said in a statement that “[t]he Redskins fully understand the severity of the recent allegations made against Reuben. If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone.”

Before making the move, Williams said, he consulted the ex-Alabama players currently on Washington’s roster, who were “overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance,” on the second-year linebacker, picked No. 31 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. There are seven former Crimson Tide players with the Redskins, including two on injured reserve.

The five active players — fifth-year safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix, rookie linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, rookie defensive lineman Daron Payne, second-year defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, second-year linebacker Ryan Anderson and second-year tight end Jeremy Sprinkle — played with Foster at Alabama.

“Let me be clear, Reuben will have to go through numerous steps including the full legal process, an investigation and potential discipline from the NFL, as well as meetings with counselors associated with the team before he will ever have the opportunity to wear the Burgundy and Gold as a player,” Williams’s statement continued. “That being said, we decided to investigate the situation with Reuben further by claiming his rights after candid conversations with a number of his ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance.

“Nothing is promised to Reuben, but we are hopeful being around so many of his former teammates and friends will eventually provide him with the best possible environment to succeed both personally and professionally.”

San Francisco, too, thought it could help the troubled Foster overcome a rough upbringing, one which saw his estranged father shoot both him and his mother when Foster was just 19 months old, and then running from justice for 16 years.

“I think we went above and beyond to help Reuben,” Shanahan said on Monday. “… I want people who are trying to get better. I think Reuben was in some ways, but not enough. He had a long way to go and he didn’t get far enough. But, when I go back and look did we handle anything wrong in what we tried to do for Reuben? I think we tried to do more for him than I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been to for a player.”

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