Reuben Foster arrived at the Redskins' headquarters in a red SUV on Wednesday morning, just hours after the team had claimed him off waivers. Within minutes, the linebacker, who was arrested last weekend on a domestic violence charge and subsequently cut by the San Francisco 49ers, was whisked into the building, where he eventually met with team officials, including Coach Jay Gruden.
Five hours later, Gruden stood at a news conference near the team’s locker room and explained why the Redskins added a player who has twice been arrested on domestic violence charges, was suspended for the first two games of this season for violating the league’s conduct policy and went unclaimed off waivers by every other NFL team on Tuesday.
“It's a team decision,” Gruden said. “I think we all had our hands in it. And we accept, obviously, the questions; but we want to let the process play out and see what happens and get to the bottom of it. There's no guarantee he's ever going to play here, to be honest with you. He's got a lot of work to do — personally, with the team, with the NFL, with himself — before he even thinks about playing football again.”
On Tuesday night, an NFL official with knowledge of the Redskins' deliberations about Foster said that the decision to claim Foster was not a unanimous one inside the front office and added that team President Bruce Allen was behind the move. Neither Allen nor Senior Vice President of Football Operations Doug Williams, in whose name the team released a statement Tuesday, was available to comment about the decision to pick up Foster, leaving it to Gruden to address a transaction that has brought significant criticism.
Still, there seemed to be confusion over who actually made the decision and what evidence was used. The statement attributed to Williams on Tuesday said team officials had asked “a number” of Foster’s former teammates at Alabama who were “overwhelmingly supportive” of adding the player.
But Jonathan Allen and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, two of the most prominent Redskins who played with Foster at Alabama, said they had not spoken with team executives.
“I didn’t talk to Bruce or anybody about it,” Clinton-Dix said loudly as he stood in the locker room after Wednesday’s practice.
Only three of the seven former Alabama players on the Redskins' roster spoke about Foster on Wednesday, and one of them — linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton — declined to say anything beyond that he was happy his ex-teammate was on the team.
“From everything I’ve seen of [Foster] in college, I’ve never had a problem,” Allen said. “I’ve never seen any problems out of him. He’s a great person. But I don’t know the whole details of the situations, so I can’t really speak about that. But from my experience it’s been good.”
The NFL placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list on Tuesday, meaning he cannot practice or attend games while the league conducts an investigation into his arrest. He also was not in the locker room on Wednesday.
Gruden said he only spoke briefly with Foster before the team’s practice and would not reveal the details of the conversation.
“He's got a lot of work to do before he even thinks about anything as far as being with the Redskins,” Gruden said. “He's got the NFL to deal with; he's got the law enforcement to deal with; he's got us to deal with. We hold our standards very high, also. We just want to get to the bottom of what happened. And that's it.”
Gruden said that neither he nor the team reached out to the woman who called 911 from the 49ers hotel Saturday night, saying Foster had hit her. He said the team had “concern” about the allegations against Foster. He also said the move, and the protest that came with it, would not be a distraction for team.
When asked if team executives had considered the negative public reaction that would come with claiming Foster, Gruden nodded.
“I’m sure there was, from Bruce and [owner] Dan [Snyder], and obviously Doug,” he said. “But at the end of the day we decided to make the move, and we’ll deal with the outcry, so to speak. But for the most part, this is a young athlete, a young person who got himself into some trouble, and we want to find out exactly what happened.”
Gruden also said he didn’t know how much the team had investigated Foster, saying he was “game-planning” for next Monday’s game at Philadelphia. He added that the team was taking a chance “on a person, a human being.”
“We understand that it’s going to be a long process for him,” Gruden said. “But he’s a young player. He made a mistake or two; and at the end of the day, we decided to take a chance and deal with it.”
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