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Is Two-Game Suspension the Turning Point for 49ers LB Reuben Foster?

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San Francisco 49ers LB Reuben Foster
© Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Reuben Foster demonstrated maturity by accepting his NFL-mandated suspension. Is this the turning point for the San Francisco 49ers’ young linebacker?

On Tuesday, the NFL suspended San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster for the first two games of the 2018 NFL season, after they determined the second-year player violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and Substances of Abuse Policy.

The NFL’s official statement noted the suspension was based on “a weapons offense and a misdemeanor drug offense, both of which were resolved earlier this year,” but not on Foster’s recently dismissed domestic violence charges.

This spring, Foster’s drug charge was dismissed, and he recently received probation after pleading no contest to charges of possessing a firearm with qualities that conflict with California law. The firearm in question is legal to purchase and possess in many U.S. states, and would be legal to possess in California if it included certain modifications.

Given that the vast majority of Foster’s criminal charges were dismissed — and the weapons charge was based on his ex-girlfriend’s admitted lies to police — Foster could have attempted to appeal his two-game suspension.

Instead, Foster took responsibility for his mistakes — marking one of the first true demonstrations of maturity we’ve seen from the 49ers’ volatile linebacker:

“I accept the League’s decision and am sorry that my mistakes have hurt my team. I have a responsibility to the 49ers, our fans and our community, and I am committed to learning from this situation and making better choices in the future. The support I have received over the last five months has been humbling, and I do not take it for granted.”

49ers general manager John Lynch — who, along with head coach Kyle Shanahan, took major heat from the media and fans for not releasing Foster immediately after initial allegations surfaced — also issued a statement accepting the NFL’s suspension decision:

“Our organization understands and supports the League’s decision. Although we are disappointed that Reuben will not be with our team for the first two games of the season, we will continue to work with him on making better decisions and eliminating unnecessary distractions. We are encouraged to see Reuben take responsibility for his mistakes, and hopeful that he has learned from them as well.”

Overall, Lynch and Shanahan handled this offseason public-relations nightmare admirably. By properly allowing facts and evidence to emerge, while keeping Foster away from 49ers team activities and issuing a no-tolerance policy on domestic violence, the 49ers’ leadership earned well-deserved trust and respect from the players on the team.

By backing Foster while the legal process ran its course instead of giving in to public pressure and demands to “do the right thing,” Lynch and Shanahan did the “right thing” — for Reuben Foster and for the 49ers.

The 49ers’ brass could have easily jumped to premature conclusions and released Foster.

Now, imagine the 49ers facing a Seattle Seahawks team twice a season, with Foster lined up next to fellow linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Foster’s suspension will hurt the San Francisco 49ers over the first two games of the 2018 season, but at least Foster has a future on the team.

Hopefully his two-game suspension — and his recent demonstration of maturity — will be the turning point for Reuben Foster and his career with the San Francisco 49ers.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers, a FanRag Sports network partner. You may have seen Chris’ work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, NinerNoise, 49erswebzone, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris on Twitter @cgawilson.

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