Early in the fourth quarter of the Redskins' 28-13 loss to the Eagles on “Monday Night Football,” the talk in the ESPN broadcast booth turned to Washington’s decision to claim Reuben Foster off waivers last week. Play-by-play man Joe Tessitore asked color analyst Jason Witten if the Redskins should have taken a chance on linebacker, who was released by the 49ers after being arrested on a domestic violence charge, Foster’s third arrest in the last year.
“One hundred percent no,” Witten said. “I believe the Washington Redskins used horrendous judgment in claiming this guy. And I understand that it’s an ongoing investigation. But my family’s been affected by domestic violence. I understand the anguish that it causes. And you know, young players just have to understand that there is no tolerance for putting your hands on a woman. Period.”
“I completely agree with you, Witt,” fellow analyst Booger McFarland said. “Under no circumstances should you ever put your hand on a woman. None whatsoever. And I think the NFL needs a more stringent policy when it comes to domestic violence. Make the punishment [work]. Make it something that if it does come up, that the NFL will punish you so bad that you don’t want to be involved with it anymore. I think that’s the only way you’re gonna be able to get rid of this.”
The Redskins were the only team to put in a waiver claim on Foster. The NFL responded by placing the 2017 first-round draft pick on the commissioner’s exempt list, making him ineligible to play until the league makes a final disciplinary ruling in his case.
During his playing career with the Cowboys, Witten was seemingly less opposed to Dallas’s decision to sign Greg Hardy, who was suspended 10 games after a league investigation determined the defensive end used physical force against his former girlfriend.
“I think everybody knows [my view on] domestic violence,” Witten told reporters when asked about Hardy’s controversial signing in 2015. “That’s unwavering. That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But that guy is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint of as Coach [Jason] Garrett says, it’s our job to invite those guys in and then create a standard of how we do things. I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here.”
Witten didn’t mention Hardy’s name during Monday’s broadcast, and Tessitore didn’t ask him about his former teammate.
“The NFL takes a lot of criticism, but I do know that they’re working to educate, to provide around the clock services for these guys, to understand that you know what, whatever you’ve experienced in your life, you now have a chance to change that,” Witten said later in the fourth quarter, returning to his discussion of Foster. “And break that cycle, and use that as a platform to be different. And I think guys have to understand that, and what we’re seeing around the league: there’s no tolerance for it. There cannot be. It has to be unwavering. And I just think it sent the wrong message when the Redskins claimed Reuben Foster, and as I said, I understand that it’s ongoing, but this isn’t his first time with this happening.”
“You know, we talk about domestic violence in the NFL like it’s an NFL problem,” McFarland said. “It’s not. It’s a societal problem, and if the NFL really wants to do away with it in their league, they’re going to have to figure out a way to make the punishment a lot tougher. That way the Redskins, or any other team, won’t feel comfortable in taking the risk and dealing with the public outcry. They feel comfortable that they know what happened in the situation down in Tampa; that they’re willing to do that and take that risk, because of that [comfort] of maybe getting a player on the back end. That’s the only way you’re going to get rid of it. But it’s not just an NFL problem, guys. It’s a societal problem, and I think Roger Goodell and everyone at 345 Park Avenue have to make the policy and the punishment a lot tougher.”
USA Today reported that the Redskins did not contact Tampa police for details about Foster’s arrest before claiming him last Tuesday, and the lawyer for Foster’s accuser said neither he nor his client were contacted by the Redskins. On “Monday Night Countdown” ahead of Monday’s game, ESPN’s Lisa Salters said she spoke with Redskins president Bruce Allen about the team’s decision to claim Foster. Salters said Allen, who hasn’t spoken to local reporters about the move, told her he knew the Redskins would get some criticism, but “they did their own investigation of sorts.”
“They wanted to know what happened,” Salters said, recapping her conversation with Allen from Sunday night. “They talked to people in Tampa, and felt comfortable that they heard another side of the Reuben Foster story that is different, and perhaps to them, worth taking this risk.”
Salters said she asked Allen, “How great does Reuben Foster have to be on the field to outweigh the bad PR that you are getting right now and will forever be around your team?”
“I don’t know,” Allen replied.