Shanahan defends 49ers’ approach with Foster

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SANTA CLARA — When Kyle Shanahan learned police arrested Reuben Foster on Saturday night for domestic violence at the 49ers hotel in Tampa, Florida, Shanahan didn’t panic, punch a wall, hyperventilate, vomit or drink himself to oblivion. Nothing like that.

“I took a little extra melatonin,” Shanahan explained Monday, “so I could sleep. Then, I woke up. The game starts at a certain time and you know what you have to do. I’m used to being ready for games no matter what happens. You get locked in and there’s nothing else going on in the world. When it’s over, you adjust and think about what’s going on. The stuff about Reuben, I knew I couldn’t be up all night because I have to do a lot of stuff on game day. I would say it hit me more (Sunday) night.”

That’s how an NFL coach compartmentalizes.

Foster allegedly slapped his girlfriend Elissa Ennis in the team hotel the night before the 49ers lost 27-9 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The next morning, the 49ers announced they will release Foster. Ennis is the same woman who accused Foster of felony domestic violence this past April, then recanted her testimony. “It was all a money scheme,” she said under oath.

A judge threw out that case against Foster. But he and Ennis continued living together in Foster’s house. And police came to his house in October to investigate another domestic-violence incident between him and Ennis. Police made no arrests.

“We weren’t aware of that incident,” Shanahan said. “Absolutely not. No one in our building had ever heard about it. Someone told us after it was written in the paper. I was aware Reuben had spoken with her and still talked to her at times. I knew that from just asking him personally, like, ‘How are things in your life, have you seen her in a while?’

“But, by no means did I think they were ever living together or dating. I could have been living there personally and I would have known, but that’s not what I want, either. I would rather the person expose himself and move on so we can keep playing this game.”

The 49ers drafted Foster with a first-round pick in 2017. They traded a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks to move up for Foster, even though the 49ers knew he screamed at a hospital worker during the NFL scouting Combine, got sent home from the combine, failed a drug test at the combine and invited a tobacco and marijuana vaporizer company to host his draft party.

The 49ers understood Foster had issues before he joined the team.

“We did everything except have a person live with him,” Shanahan said. “We had (director of player engagement) Austin Moss go to his house daily. But, we’re not here to babysit him and make sure he never messes up. We’re here to help guys become better people, and if we have to sit there and spy on them every second, that might sound good, but I don’t think that would work out well.”

Despite visiting Foster every day at his home in Los Gatos, Moss apparently didn’t know Ennis lived there, too. And Shanahan didn’t tell Foster to stop dating her. “I’m never going to give an ultimatum to someone on (whom) they date,” Shanahan said.

Still, Shanahan knows he must do something differently in the future. The 49ers can’t afford to waste more first-round draft picks on troubled, self-destructive, violent people.

“We spent a high pick on Reuben and he’s not here anymore,” Shanahan said. “Obviously, that’s not how we planned on it to go. We knew he had had a string of making bad decisions. We knew that when we took him. We thought he would improve, and we were going to do everything we could to help him.

“And Reuben did improve in some things. But, after this happened a second time with the same person in our hotel, it’s just hard to comprehend how you put yourself in that situation again. I’m not OK with that regardless. That’s someone who is very hard to trust. That decision-making was enough for us to move on (from Foster).”

Shanahan finally decided Foster isn’t trustworthy, which begs one last question: Were the 49ers right to trust Foster and defend him the first time his girlfriend accused him of domestic violence? Do they still believe he was not guilty?

“I don’t think it totally matters,” Shanahan said. “And I don’t think it’s totally fair to say. You would like to believe people, and I do usually when they look you in the eye and tell you stuff. I’ve heard of some really bad situations for kids growing up, and Reuben grew up in as bad of one as I’ve ever heard. It has been hard for him to be the same as everyone else. I believe in his heart. I hope I’m not wrong on that. Shame on me if I am.”

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