ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said the team understands the public outcry over claiming troubled linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers. But they’re content with letting the NFL investigate Foster’s situation before making any final decision on his future in Washington.
The Redskins claimed Foster on Tuesday, three days after he was arrested in Tampa, Florida, on charges of domestic violence and two days after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers.
Foster was at Redskins Park on Wednesday, taking a physical and meeting some of his new teammates, including several who played with him at Alabama. Because he was placed on the NFL’s Commissioner Exempt List, he can’t practice or play with the team, but he can participate in meetings.
“He’s got a lot of work to do before he even thinks about anything as far as being with the Redskins,” Gruden said. “He’s got the NFL to deal with; he’s got the law enforcement to deal with; he’s got us to deal with. We hold our standards very high, also. We just want to get to the bottom of what happened. And that’s it.”
Foster’s arraignment on the charges has been pushed back to Jan. 3, meaning he is unlikely to play in the regular season, at the least.
The Redskins did not talk to anyone with the Tampa police or the woman. In a statement Tuesday, Redskins senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said the team had “candid” conversations with Foster’s former Alabama teammates on its roster.
Stephen A. Smith outlines why linebacker Reuben Foster should not be playing in the NFL this season.
The Redskins have seven former Crimson Tide players on the roster, including two on injured reserve. Two of them — defensive lineman Jonathan Allen and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix — said they did not talk to anyone in the organization about Foster, whether with team owner Dan Snyder, team president Bruce Allen or Williams.
“I didn’t talk to Bruce or anybody about it,” Clinton-Dix said.
“They didn’t talk to me,” Jonathan Allen said. “I wasn’t one of them.”
Foster has been involved with the woman, Elissa Ennis, off and on for three years. It wasn’t their first domestic incident. On Feb. 11, he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence and possession of an assault rifle — a loaded Sig Sauer 516 rifle that was discovered on a bathroom floor. The domestic violence charge was dropped in May when Ennis recanted her allegations that Foster had hit her. But Foster was placed on probation for two years, and he isn’t allowed to have guns during this time.
Foster served a two-game suspension to start this season, stemming from an arrest for misdemeanor marijuana possession in January. He also failed a drug test at the 2017 NFL combine, and he was sent home early after getting into a heated argument with a hospital worker. Foster was considered a top-10 talent, but his off-field issues and medical concerns caused him to drop to the 31st pick.
Regardless, the Redskins always liked Foster, dating back to the 2017 draft. One source said there was strong debate about taking him instead of Jonathan Allen with the 17th pick — even though Allen was rated much higher on the Redskins’ board.
Gruden said the Redskins claimed Foster rather than wait for his situation to be resolved because they didn’t know if anyone else would claim him. If Foster plays for the Redskins, they can control him for three more years. He has two years left on his original rookie deal with the Niners; the Redskins could pick up a fifth-year option, as well. Plus, Foster’s cap hit does not exceed $1.6 million in either of the next two years.
“At the end of the day, we decided to make the move, and we’ll deal with the outcry, so to speak,” Gruden said. “But for the most part, this is a young athlete, a young person who got himself into some trouble, and we want to find out exactly what happened.”
If Foster is cleared — legally and by the NFL — then Washington would use him in a role similar to that of linebacker Zach Brown. The Redskins like Foster’s speed and athleticism, but they would want someone else to call the signals.
“We don’t know if he’s going to get a second chance, quite frankly,” Gruden said of Foster. “There has to be a lot of recovery; he’s gotta go through the process with the league, with the police; individually, he’s gonna have to get some help and counseling, obviously. And this is all before the league gets done with him.
“So we understand that it’s going to be a long process for him.”
Clinton-Dix said he was glad to possibly have Foster as a teammate again. They played together for one year at Alabama.
“People are looking for him to fall, people are looking for him to make more mistakes,” Clinton-Dix said. “We all make mistakes and 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 the correct way as a leader, not only of the football team, but this generation growing up, period.
“I just expect him to come in, man, and do the right things. I can’t bash him into the ground for what he did in his past. I don’t know what his past was like. When he was in Bama, he was a good guy, a funny guy, hard worker, and I expect the same things when he comes here.”
“There’s no guarantee he’s ever gonna play here, to be honest with you. He’s got a lot of work to do — personally, with the team, with the NFL, with himself — before he even thinks about playing football again.”
Redskins coach Jay Gruden
Jonathan Allen said he never saw any problems with Foster at Alabama.
“He’s a great person,” Allen said. “But I don’t know the whole details of the situation, so I can’t really speak about that. But from my experiences, it’s been good.”
Redskins running back Chris Thompson, considered a team leader, said he’ll let the process play out.
“I don’t know whether some of the things are true or not,” Thompson said. “For me, if he goes through the legal process and everything and charges are dropped, I’m going to accept him as my teammate and move on with him. I feel like Doug and those guys grabbed him for a reason. That’s not in my hands. My focus is, if he becomes part of this team, is to accept him as my teammate.”
The Redskins declined requests for Bruce Allen or Snyder to comment on the situation. Gruden said it is ultimately a team decision, though sources said there was disagreement within the organization about claiming Foster.
“We all had our hands in it,” Gruden said. “And we accept, obviously, the questions; but we want to let the process play out and see what happens and get to the bottom of it. There’s no guarantee he’s ever gonna play here, to be honest with you. He’s got a lot of work to do — personally, with the team, with the NFL, with himself — before he even thinks about playing football again.”