The Washington Redskins seemed to give inside linebacker Reuben Foster a second chance for an NFL career after the San Francisco 49ers cut loose the former Alabama All-American. Foster’s third arrest this year — at the team hotel the night before a game, no less — was the last straw for the 49ers.
“We don’t know if he’s going to get a second chance, quite frankly,” Gruden said. “We don’t know. There has to be a lot of recovery; he’s got to go through the process with the league, with the police. Individually, he’s going to have to get some help in counseling. We understand that it’s going to be a long process for him. 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.”
Right now, Foster can’t play for Washington. After the league awarded him to the Redskins, it put him on the Commissioner Exempt List, a sort of football limbo that’s not quite a suspension. It doesn’t allow a player to practice or play until the NFL completes a review of his situation, but he does get paid.
On Saturday night, Foster was taken to Hillsborough County Jail by the Tampa Police and charged with first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence.
The 911 call that led to Foster’s arrest was released by the Tampa Police Department on Wednesday, the same day that his arraignment on the charge was scheduled for Jan. 3.
The woman involved told Tampa Police officers that Foster had knocked her phone from her hand, pushed her in the chest and slapped her in the face.
On Feb. 11, Foster was arrested in Los Gatos, California, and charged with felony domestic violence, forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and possession of an assault weapon. On May 23, a judge dismissed two of those charges after the woman testified she made up her claims against Foster. The judge also reduced the weapons charge from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Elissa Ennis was the woman involved in both incidents. Her attorney, Adante Pointer, told USA Today that his client won’t recant her charges this time.
“We are moving forward,” Pointer said. “She will participate in the process.”
Pointer said Ennis hadn’t been in Tampa to make trouble for Foster.
“He flew her to the game,” Pointer said. “He paid her to go out there. This isn’t a situation where she just showed up with intentions of ruining somebody’s life.”
Foster also had been arrested in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 12 and charged with second-degree possession of marijuana. The marijuana charge was dismissed in May after Foster participated in a pretrial diversion program.
The NFL suspended Foster for the first two games of the 2018 regular season for violating the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and its Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse based on the offseason incidents.
“I was a little surprised,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said about Foster being claimed by Washington. “I mean, not the team in particular, but that someone did. But someone did.”
The Redskins have selected two Alabama players in each of the past two NFL drafts — defensive end Jonathan Allen and outside linebacker Ryan Anderson in 2017 and nose tackle Da’Ron Payne and inside linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton in 2018.
Gruden said the familiarity that he’s acquired with the Crimson Tide helped him be on board with Washington’s decision to obtain Foster.
“I spent a lot of time with (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban and Reuben,” Gruden said. “… They had a lot of players we spent a lot of time with, and he was one of them. And, at that time, he was one of my favorite players in the draft defensively as a player and one of my favorite interviews as a person.
“What’s happened since then, I don’t know really a lot about what’s happened. I just have read a little bit about what’s happened, and it’s not good. But we will get to the bottom of it by the end of the day. Like I said there’s no guarantee he’ll ever step foot on a football field here, but we would like to find out more about what happened.”
Washington has a fifth Alabama alumnus on its active roster in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. In his fifth NFL season, he’s the senior member of the Redskins’ Tide contingent, although he joined the team less than one month ago in an Oct. 30 trade with the Green Bay Packers.
“One thing I can say is people are looking for him to fall,” Clinton-Dix said of Foster. “People are looking for him to make more mistakes. But being a human, we all make mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. I have high expectations for him when he walks into this building. I expect a lot from him. I expect for him to carry himself in the correct way — as a leader.”
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.