The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Doug Williams says Redskins’ front office was united in decision to claim Reuben Foster

Doug Williams talks with Bruce Allen before a game last year. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Placeholder while article actions load

Washington Redskins Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams said the franchise’s key decision makers were united in their decision to claim troubled linebacker Reuben Foster on Tuesday, just two days after Foster was released by the San Francisco 49ers following a weekend arrest on a domestic violence charge.

Williams, speaking publicly for the first time about Washington’s decision, said he and the Redskins expected the widespread criticism after they were the only team to put in a claim on Foster, who has been arrested three times this year and was suspended for the first two games of this season under the NFL’s personal conduct and substance abuse policies. The NFL placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list Tuesday, meaning he won’t be eligible to play until the league makes a final disciplinary decision in his case.

“We knew there was going to be some backlash, and we understand that, and rightfully so,” Williams told Doc Walker during his weekly appearance on The Team 980. “I’ve got six daughters, so it ain’t something I would condone, but at the same time I think we are in the business of at least looking into [his case]. I could sit here, and I won’t, name a bunch of teams that took on players that got a lot of baggage that nobody’s saying anything about. You can’t get into nitpicking what they do and what you do. You gotta look at it from your standpoint. There was a lot of thought that went into it. It wasn’t just a spur of the moment type of thing. We all gathered, we talked about it, we knew there was going to be some risk-reward involved in it.”

Jay Gruden on Redskins' Reuben Foster decision: ‘We’ll deal with the outcry’

Walker asked Williams about a Washington Post report, citing an NFL official with knowledge of the situation, that the Redskins front office’s decision to claim Foster was not unanimous.

“When I read that, I was trying to find out who wasn’t united,” Williams said. “ . . . This is all the people from the head coach, and myself and [Redskins team president Bruce Allen], and of course the owner, who owns this football team, has to know what we’re talking about. I don’t know who wasn’t on board. I don’t know where the source comes from. In every organization and every business, everything else, I’m sure they got some leakers who might say something and people take it and run with it . . . Nobody that was in my room was thumbs down.”

Foster, a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft out of Alabama, was arrested Saturday at the 49ers' team hotel in Tampa. According to police, a victim, later reported to be Foster’s girlfriend, said that Foster slapped her phone out of her hand, pushed her in the chest and slapped her in the face with an open hand. The lawyer for Foster’s accuser said neither he nor his client were contacted by the Redskins before they claimed Foster off waivers on Tuesday. USA Today reported that the Redskins did not contact Tampa police about Foster’s latest arrest.

In the statement the Redskins issued on Tuesday, which until Thursday stood as the only comment from any member of the team’s front office about Foster, Williams said the team had “candid conversations with a number of [Foster’s] ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance.”

Lawyer for Reuben Foster’s accuser: Talking to former teammates isn’t enough

On Wednesday, defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, two of the five former Alabama players on Washington’s active roster, told reporters that they weren’t asked about Foster. Two other former Crimson Tide stars in the Redskins' locker room, linebackers Ryan Anderson and Shaun Dion Hamilton, declined to comment when asked if they were consulted about Foster. The fifth, Daron Payne, was not in the locker room Tuesday or Wednesday.

“Well, you know, we didn’t hold a convention,” Williams said when asked about which of Foster’s former Alabama teammates the team consulted. “We’ve got five guys on this team [from Alabama]. If you talk about Arie [Kouandjio], who’s on the injured reserve, it’s six guys on this football team that went to Alabama, that know [Foster], that played with him or what have you. It wasn’t like we gotta talk to all five. The two that we did talk to know him very well. Not that that makes the decision on whether we make the move or not; we’re just trying to get some insight into the young man.”

Williams, who said he had a conversation with Foster’s former high school coach, said the Redskins weren’t concerned with whether another team would put in a claim for the linebacker.

“Washington is Washington, and we’re the Redskins, and you’re going to get a lot of flak regardless,” Williams said. “I’m sure if anybody else had picked him, they would have got a lot of flak . . . At the same time, we got his name, but he’s not in uniform. He can’t be in uniform, so it’s not like we expect to win a game with him tomorrow because he won’t be dressed up, he won’t be suited. We don’t know whether he will be suited. We have to wait a while to find out what really happens with him.”

Williams said the league hasn’t given the Redskins any indication when its own investigation of Foster’s case, which began Sunday, will be completed.

“If he’s cleared, we have a chance to see,” Williams said. “ . . . Basically what you’re doing here is you’re taking a high-risk chance. The high risk was the beat-up that we’re going to take from PR. We understood that from a PR standpoint, and we’re taking it. The most important thing is, we’re hoping that things come out and it wasn’t the way that everything has been perceived. We don’t know that. We have to wait and see. If things are as bad as it’s made out to be, he might not get a chance to play for us. We don’t know.”

Williams said he talked to Foster and let him know that his opportunity in Washington “might be his last rodeo.”

“He has to get his business fixed and get things straight,” Williams said. “Hopefully, things are not as bad as it’s been reported. Like I said, everything’s got an investigation. We gotta just wait and see where the shoe falls.”

At one point during Thursday’s interview, Williams was asked whether he expected such intense scrutiny about a player who won’t be in uniform on Monday.

“Oh yeah, we knew that was going to happen, and like I said, rightfully so with all the stuff that is going on in this country," Williams said. “We’ve got people who are in high, high, high, high places that have done far worse, and if you look at it realistically, they’re still up there. This is small potatoes [compared to] a lot of things out there. But at the same time it’s a big issue in America today, whether or not it’s in football, whether or not it’s in everyday life, whether or not it’s in politics, it’s out there.”

Read more on the Redskins:

Two Alabama teammates say they weren’t consulted before Redskins claimed Reuben Foster

NFL placing Reuben Foster on paid leave means it’s unlikely he’ll play any time soon

Svrluga: Redskins ignore Colin Kaepernick, sign Reuben Foster and remind us of who they are

Brewer: By claiming Reuben Foster, the Redskins show they’re numb, indifferent and reckless

Ahead of Eagles game, Colt McCoy looks to balance big plays with taking better care of the ball