The NFL announced Friday that it will not suspend Washington Redskins linebacker Reuben Foster after he was twice arrested twice for domestic violence last year. The league found that Foster did not violate its personal conduct policy, but he will be fined two game checks for violating conditions that the league required of him after he was suspended for the first two games of last season.
Friday’s announcement means Foster, 25, will be eligible to play next season and can take part in the team’s offseason conditioning program, which starts Monday. He had been on the NFL’s Commissioner Exempt List since his domestic violence arrest in November, when he was still a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Charges were eventually dropped in both cases.
The 49ers released Foster after he was arrested Nov. 24 in Tampa, and the Redskins claimed him on waivers three days after that. Washington’s coaches and executives knew that Foster would not play for the rest of the year but were hopeful that he could eventually return and viewed the transaction as a potential opportunity to add an impact player at a bargain price.
The move drew intense criticism from many fans and observers, who were angered by the Redskins’ decision to add a player with two domestic violence charges in a year.
In the Tampa incident, Foster’s girlfriend told police that he hit her during an argument at the team hotel the night before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Those charges were dropped in January. In a statement Friday, the NFL said it did not find evidence that Foster violated its personal conduct policy.
“I am grateful to the Washington Redskins and the NFL for giving me this second chance,” Foster said in a statement released by the team. “I appreciate the support I have received from the league, my team and my union to help me succeed. I want to thank Commissioner [Roger] Goodell for the time that he has spent with me and for his understanding of me as a person. I accept the NFL’s decision and want to say that I am truly sorry for my past actions and the people who may have been hurt by them. Going forward, I will follow the plan outlined for me and work hard to earn back the trust of my teammates, the NFL, NFL fans and the community. I know that my success is all up to me, and I am committed to not letting you down.”
Foster was suspended for the first two games last year, while still a member of the 49ers, following his first domestic violence arrest and a weapons charge in California, as well as an arrest for marijuana possession in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The domestic violence charges were dropped, the weapons charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, and the marijuana charge was dropped when he entered a diversion program for first-time offenders. When the league suspended him, it said the punishment was for the weapons and drug offenses.
His two-year NFL career has been a mix of on-field promise and off-field trouble. When healthy and not suspended, Foster has shown glimpses of being one of the league’s most talented interior linebackers. Despite battling ankle injuries during his rookie season in San Francisco, Foster had 72 tackles in 10 games. Last season, he had 29 tackles in his six starts before his release.
But away from the field he has struggled, including being sent home from the 2017 scouting combine after arguing with a hospital employee during a mandatory physical.
“Everyone in this league is held to a higher standard,” Redskins President Bruce Allen said in a statement. “Reuben understands that his past actions have led a lot of people to doubt him, and he has committed to doing the work necessary to earn the trust of his teammates, our great fans and the NFL.”
Allen added that the team has “put in place a comprehensive responsibility and accountability plan” to help Foster that includes “a structured living arrangement, weekly meetings with the club player engagement director, weekly meetings with our team chaplain and targeted community service engagements."
“We have been very clear with Reuben that his past does not have to determine his future — but the responsibility is squarely on him to change,” Allen continued. “Reuben knows that we simply will not tolerate any future conduct that is detrimental to the Washington Redskins organization or to the NFL.”
Washington was the only team to put in a waiver claim.
Foster was given a locker at the Redskins’ team facility and began working out with the squad and attending position meetings. Because he was on the exempt list, he could not practice or be at games, but several players and coaches said he had been supportive in meetings and helpful during weight-training sessions.
Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.
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