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In a situation that once looked very bleak, Reuben Foster was exonerated Wednesday afternoon from the domestic charges filed against him, capping three-and-a-half months of uncertainty. The criminal threats charges were also dropped. The assault weapon charge, the second-most serious, was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, another major victory for the 49ers’ prized linebacker.
Foster returned to the 49ers facilities Thursday. Foster won’t look back at this case as if it’s a distant memory, though, as he will likely pay a hefty fine and serve a suspension for the weapon misdemeanor and the marijuana possession charge he obtained in January. Foster was charged with second-degree marijuana possession, which is the lowest level for the crime in Alabama, simply designated for personal use.
What is so bizarre is that Foster’s gun charge is illegal in California, but not in Alabama (his home state). His marijuana charge is illegal in Alabama, but not in California.
So, now what?
The lack of past precedent the NFL has set for Foster’s wrongdoings, combined with the peculiarity of his charges make his future hard to forecast. The NFL states that domestic violence charges warrant at least a six-game suspension, but this has hardly been consistent.
- All the details from Reuben Foster’s final domestic violence hearing, and what it means for 49ers
Last year, former 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock was not suspended for a domestic violence case that was dismissed.
Meanwhile, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot was suspended for six games during the 2017-18 season amid a domestic violence scandal. His case spanned for more than a year, and his suspension was punctuated three different times with reinstatement, before he ultimately served six games. Like Foster, the charges against Elliot were dropped.
Could Foster be suspended for one game? Prior to the 2016 season, Giants kicker Josh Brown served a one-game suspension for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge, until public backlash nudged the NFL into putting Brown on the commissioner’s exempt list. He is still not signed.
Could Foster be suspended for two games? Former Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was suspended for two games during the 2015 season after he fired a gun in an argument with a woman. Former Redskins linebacker Junior Galette was also suspended for two games with misdemeanor battery and domestic violence.
Could Foster be suspended for four games? Jets receiver Quincy Enunwa was suspended for four games after he pulled his ex-girlfriend off a bed, hurting her head and finger. The charges were dropped, but the suspension withstood.
Surely, there are varying degrees of seriousness within all of these suspensions, but it is inexplicable that cases with similarities yield varying suspension lengths. All of these cases were considered after the NFL implemented the six-game policy for domestic violence.
One case with similar charges as Foster’s was Josh Huff’s. The Saints receiver was suspended two games for the 2018 season from a 2016 arrest when he was carrying an illegal handgun and a small amount of marijuana. He had a conceal and carry permit for the weapon in Texas, but not Pennsylvania, where he was arrested.
As for the substance abuse program, many players have been suspended for a full year for a second or third violation. Foster tested positive for a diluted sample at the 2017 NFL Combine, which the league treated as a positive test. He was not suspended for it.
Foster is set to return to court on June 6 regarding the illegal weapon charge for his SIG Sauer 516 short-barreled rifle that police found loaded in his Los Gatos home on Feb. 11. It is likely he will perform community service and have to surrender the weapon, at a minimum.
With all of the above cases considered, and the slew of wrongdoings attached to Foster, expect the 49ers linebacker to be suspended for at least two games.