Gruden: We decided to ‘deal with the outcry’ from claiming Foster

Chris Lingebach
November 28, 2018 - 5:06 pm
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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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Jay Gruden stood at the podium at Redskins Park Wednesday and took all the bullets for his organization's decision to claim accused domestic abuser Reuben Foster.

Reuben cannot practice or attend games for the Redskins while on the Commissioner's Exempt List, as the NFL conducts its investigation into his arrest in Tampa Saturday night. That incident occurred at the 49ers' team hotel the night before their game against the Buccaneers, and resulted in a first-degree misdemeanor domestic violence charge for Foster, leading to his release from the 49ers organization Sunday morning.

The Redskins put in a waiver claim on Foster. They were the only NFL club to do so, so they were awarded Foster's rights, along with all the public outrage that came with him.

Was there concern among Redskins brass about that public reaction considering the nature of the accusations made against Foster?

"A little bit, yeah," Gruden said. "I'm sure there was from Bruce (Allen) and Dan (Snyder) and obviously Doug (Williams). But at the end of the day, we decided to make the move and we'll deal with the outcry, so to speak. 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."

Asked if the decision to claim Foster came from above his head, Gruden called it "a team decision."

"I think that we all had our hand in it and we accept obviously the questions," he said. "But we want to let the process play out and see what happens and get to the bottom of it. You know, there's no guarantees he's ever gonna play here to be honest with you. I mean, 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."

Gruden says the Redskins security department will do its due diligence in investigating the incident, as will the league, a process that is already underway. 

"They're first," Gruden said of the league. "The law enforcement in Tampa and California, they'll do their work and we'll get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

The alleged victim in this incident is the same who brought a felony domestic violence charge against Foster in California this February. Foster was also charged with making criminal threats and weapons possession at that time. She later recanted her story in the earlier incident, leaving a judge to rule there was no probable cause in the matter and no further evidence to support those charges.

The weapons charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. Foster pled no-contest to the charge in June and was sentenced to two years' probation, 232 hours of community service and $235 in fines.

In light of the latest domestic violence charge, the Santa Clara County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office is considering pursuing a probation violation charge against Foster. The DA is also considering re-charging Foster on the original domestic violence case, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Double jeopardy does not apply, as Foster never went to trial.

"Some have wondered why we still think Mr. Foster hurt his girlfriend when she said she didn't. Recantation is common among domestic-violence victims," the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office said when the alleged victim recanted her story in May. "Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don’t, more victims will be hurt."

"It was all a money scheme," the accuser said under oath in May. "I didn't want to get this far in the news. It was about money … I wanted to sue him on my own."

Asked if the Redskins organization reached out to police in Tampa where the latest incident occurred, Gruden said "a little bit."

"But we also understand that claiming him and the commissioner put him on the exempt list, we have some time to get the work done," he said. "We'll get to the bottom of it, really."

Gruden was asked who was involved in the discussion to bring Foster in and if there were any dissenting voices in the room.

"Uh, not really. I mean there's some concern without a doubt," he said. "You understand what's going on there, but at the end of the day, we decided to pick up his rights. And right now, it's not even our rights; he's on the Commissioner's Exempt List. So really he can just come in here on an occasional basis. I met him today for the first time since the combine and his pro day and all that stuff. So we'll just let it play out, like I said."

Gruden called Foster one of his "favorite players" in the 2017 NFL Draft, in which Foster went 31st overall to San Francisco, and one of his "favorite interviews as a person" at the time. Gruden says he relied on the information he gathered prior to the draft "a lot" in deciding to bring Foster into the building.

"A lot, really. A lot. I spent a lot of time with Coach Saban, Reuben," he said. "Obviously the same year Jonathan Allen came out, Ryan Anderson came out. We've had a lot of players there 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 happened and it's not good. But we will get to the bottom of it, at the end of the day, and like I said, there's no guarantee he's ever gonna step foot on a football field here, but we would like to find out more about what happened."

Gruden isn't worried about this being a distraction for any of his players, who he says are "all honed in on what they're up against" in the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles Monday night. Gruden repeatedly reinforced this point.

"This is the only time I talk about it, is right here for 10 minutes in this room," he said. "Right now it's been a great practice time and walk-throughs and practice. We'll have meetings now. Get ready for tomorrow's practice. Third down, red zone we still have a lot of work to do. So after this it's not a topic."

"We understand what type of team (the Eagles) have," Gruden said. "They're defending Super Bowl champions playing on Monday Night Football and this is no distraction whatsoever to these guys. I know we have five or six guys on our team that know (Foster) personally and (are) very good friends with him, but also understand what he did is very wrong and it's a problem and we have to get to the bottom of what happened exactly. So other than that, there's no distraction for anybody."

Gruden met with Foster for the first time since prior to the '17 draft, but chose to keep the contents of their discussion "between myself and Reuben."

"It was very brief," he allowed. "You know we have a game to get ready for, Philadelphia, and he's got a lot of work to do before he even thinks about anything as far as being with the Redskins. Like I 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."

When asked what the Redskins will gain if Foster doesn't ultimately succeed here, Gruden flatly admitted "nothing."

"Do you believe it's really just a football move as far as taking a chance on a guy," a reporter followed up.

"Yeah, a person," Gruden said. "A human being, yes."

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