Reuben Foster scores support from 49ers, Richard Sherman amid 'disturbing' charges


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SAN JOSE — Reuben Foster’s tenure with the 49ers remains tenuous but not over, at least not in the immediate hours after he got charged Thursday for felony domestic violence and weapon possession.

The team’s support even extended into a Santa Clara County courtroom, where new 49ers teammate Richard Sherman surprisingly shadowed Foster as he was escorted in with attorneys for a quick, no-plea arraignment.

“I’m just here to support a teammate,” Sherman said as he left the courtroom trailing Foster, who did not comment.

Even though Foster’s arrest was two months ago, the 49ers brass took a wait-and-see approach regarding Foster until prosecutors announced their own intentions, and that lighting bolt came Thursday with an 8:34 a.m. press release from the District Attorney’s office. Alarming accusations were disclosed in which Foster allegedly punched his girlfriend “in the head eight to 10 times” and resulted in a ruptured ear drum.

And now, rather than terminate Foster’s employment, the 49ers remain in an exploratory phase, uncertain if the allegations amount to facts.

In this Oct. 22, 2017 file photo, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster (56) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)
In this Oct. 22, 2017 file photo, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster (56) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File) 

Nearly 1 1/2 hours after three felony charges were levied against Foster, the 49ers issued a statement that was not specifically attributed to a team official, and it read:

“The 49ers organization is aware of today’s disturbing charges regarding Reuben Foster. We will continue to follow this serious matter.

“Reuben is aware that his place in our organization is under great scrutiny and will depend on what is learned through the legal process.”

The 49ers are still evaluating whether Foster will be welcomed to participate in the voluntary offseason program that opens Monday. He’s been working out at the facility the past couple months, including this week.

Foster, a first-round draft pick last April 29, faces more than 11 years in prison if convicted on felony charges of domestic violence with an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and possession of an assault weapon. He also drew a misdemeanor charge for having a large capacity weapon magazine.

Foster, wearing a dark suit, took his arraignment very seriously and didn’t flash the bright smile that 49ers fans adored last year. He remained straight faced, and perhaps the only other emotion detected was a respect for the court and perhaps fear at the entirety of this all.

Sherman and his wife, Ashley, took a seat a few rows behind Foster during the arraignment. Safety Jaquiski Tartt, after tweeting “prayers” to Foster earlier in the day, showed up at the Hall of Justice as Foster was ushered away after the arraignment in a waiting car.

Foster, 24, is coming off a rocky rookie season that in some ways paralleled the 49ers’ first under coach Kyle Shanahan: a bad start preceded a strong finish. Ankle, shoulder and rib injuries kept Foster out six games, but he rallied to win the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Month award for November and finished as their second-leading tackler.

Daniel Brown #85 of the Chicago Bears carries the football against Reuben Foster #56 of the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on December 3, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Chicago Bears 15-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Daniel Brown #85 of the Chicago Bears carries the football against Reuben Foster #56 of the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on December 3, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Chicago Bears 15-14. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) 

Then came the offseason and a Jan. 12 arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Foster had starred at the University of Alabama before the 49ers drafted him 31st overall last April 29. Foster promptly returned to the Bay Area and trained at the 49ers facility, even after his Feb. 11 domestic-violence arrest.

NFL law mandates a six-game suspension for domestic-violence cases, as was unsuccessfully challenged last year regarding Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s status.

“We continue to monitor all developments in this matter which is under review of the personal conduct policy,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told this news organization.

Foster’s status could ramp up expectations that the 49ers use their top draft pick (No. 9 overall) on a linebacker come April 26. Veterans Malcolm Smith and Brock Coyle are the projected starters at inside linebacker without Foster.

Last April, the 49ers released Tremaine Brock hours after he got arrested for alleged domestic violence, and four months later prosecutors dropped charges against him as he resumed his career with the Minnesota Vikings and avoided a NFL-imposed suspension. That prompt exit from the 49ers was similar to fullback Bruce Miller getting released hours after his September 2016 arrest for an alleged assault in San Francisco.

Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49er linebacker, leaves Santa Clara County Jail, Sunday evening, Feb. 11, 2018, after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and possession of an assault rifle in Los Gatos. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Reuben Foster, San Francisco 49er linebacker, leaves Santa Clara County Jail, Sunday evening, Feb. 11, 2018, after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and possession of an assault rifle in Los Gatos. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

The 49ers have a NFL-high 17 arrests since 2012, and not all resulted in prompt expulsion from the franchise. Aldon Smith, Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks were allowed to play amid their legal woes before eventually getting released.

It’s been nearly a year since the 49ers moved back into the first round to take Foster, a high-wired, wide-smiling linebacker whose stock had fallen amid concerns of a surgically repaired rotator cuff as well as off-the-field red flags.

San Francisco 49ers' Reuben Foster (56) reacts after nearly intercepting the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter of their NFL game at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, September 10, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)
San Francisco 49ers’ Reuben Foster (56) reacts after nearly intercepting the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter of their NFL game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday, September 10, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 



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