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Washington claims former 49ers LB Reuben Foster, who quickly lands on commissioner’s exempt list

November 28, 2018

Former San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster has been claimed off waivers by Washington, and the NFL quickly placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list, prohibiting him from practicing or playing with his new club until his legal issues are resolved.

Foster, 24, the former 2017 first-round pick who has had multiple domestic- violence incidents reported against him in his two NFL seasons, was waived on Monday after the team had given him another chance to redeem himself.

″[Washington] fully understands the severity of the recent allegations made against Reuben,” senior VP of player personnel Doug Williams said in a statement Tuesday. “If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone. 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.

“That being said, we decided to investigate the situation with Reuben further by claiming his rights after candid conversations with a number of ex-Alabama teammates and current [Washington] players who were overwhelmingly supportive of 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.”

ESPN’s AdamSchefter initially reported that the Cleveland Browns had claimed Foster before clarifying that the information was “premature” and adding that the NFL declined to indicate which team it was. Later, he indicated that Washington would be Foster’s new team.

But will Foster be able to play anytime soon?

The league likely will be investigating Foster’s arrest further, the one that happened just before the 49ers’ last game at Tampa Bay on Sunday. About 16 hours prior to the 49ers and Bucs playing at Raymond James Stadium, Foster was arrested following an altercation with a woman with whom he’s acquainted. She indicated to police that Foster pushed and slapped her, and he was arrested and booked on domestic battery charges.

The 49ers released Foster later that morning. In the hours that followed, the team learned of a separate, previously unreported domestic violence incident involving Foster that had allegedly occurred in October. This came after a two-game suspension to start this season for Foster following two offseason incidents — an arrest on a marijuana possession charge in Alabama in January, along with gun charges in February.

During that February arrest that included the gun charges, Foster’s ex-girlfriend​​, Elissa Ennis, initially told police that Foster had hit her, resulting in multiple injuries. In May, she recanted those claims and testified during a preliminary hearing that she made the whole incident up, that Foster never hit her and that she wanted “to end” Foster.

In Sunday’s bond hearing, a Florida judge ruled that Foster was to have no contact with the alleged victim, who is believed to be Ennis.

Will the NFL issue a suspension without pay? Surely, his alleged actions could qualify as being grounds for discipline under the players’ conduct code. Meantime, he lands on the exempt list, which would keep Foster off the field while criminal charges are pending, before a final decision is rendered.

Washington almost certainly would be required to pay his remaining 2018 salary while that process played out, if it happens that way. The 31st pick in the 2017 draft, Foster has a base salary of $875,000; the remaining balance for that for the final five weeks of the regular season would come out to about $257,000.

It’s not clear what Foster’s short- or long-term status is right now. Washington certainly claimed a talented player who only was waived because of his litany of off-field issues. But we’ll wait to speculate what his potential impact might be as a player for his new team until his status with the NFL is cleared up.

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