SANTA CLARA, Calif. - San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke met with the media Tuesday, two days following the arrest of defensive lineman Ray McDonald on felony domestic abuse charges. Baalke would not say whether or not McDonald would play in Sunday’s regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.
”That remains to be seen,” Baalke said. “There’s due process. We’re still in fact-finding mode trying to get as much information as we can. We’ll have more knowledge today and certainly more knowledge the next day moving forward. Nothing’s been determined at this point.”
McDonald was taken into police custody early Sunday morning after an incident occurred with his fiancee at a birthday part in which other teammates were present. McDonald was not available during the team’s open locker room session Tuesday. Baalke said McDonald would participate in practice Tuesday afternoon.
The arrest came just days after the NFL imposed a new policy regarding domestic abuse in which commissioner Roger Goodell vowed to take a tougher stance on domestic violence after receiving negative blowback after issuing a two-game suspension for Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was charged for domestic violence in February. “I didn’t get it right,” Goodell said in a letter sent to all 32 teams. “Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”
McDonald becomes the first test case for the new policy, which states the first offense would warrant a six-game suspension without pay. A second results in a lifetime ban from the league. The letter also noted that longer penalties might be issued under more severe circumstances, including when the act is committed against a pregnant woman. The Sacramento Bee reported McDonald’s wife was 10-weeks pregnant at the time of incident.
Baalke said he’s spoken with McDonald on multiple occasions since the arrest and the team is exhausting all its resources necessary to make a decision regarding his future with the organization.
”This matter is being treated seriously by this organization,” said Baalke. “Domestic violence is not something that will be tolerated within the 49er organization, period.”
Last September, the team allowed Aldon Smith to play all 72 snaps in a loss to the Colts two days after Smith was arrested for a DUI. Smith left the team for five weeks following that incident to attend an inpatient treatment center. Smith was suspended for nine games Friday, less than two full days before McDonald’s arrest. Cornerback Chris Culliver in March was arrested on felony hit-and-run charges and weapons possession.
”I’ve always believed one (arrest) is too many,” Baalke said. “We’re continuing to work to try to figure out what we can do better. Better as an organization, better as individuals, whether you’re a player, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re in the administrative side. We’re always searching for better and we certainly have some work to do. But we’re working hard to try to give our players the best guidance we can. And we’ll continue to do that.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh was on a local radio show Tuesday morning and said, "You ask me how I feel about domestic violence. I can be very clear about that…If someone physically abuses a woman and/or physically or mentally abuses or hurts a child, then there's no understanding. There's no tolerance for that.”
Tight end Vernon Davis was at the party and said he's unsure whether half the players on the team showed up throughout the night - they were coming and going. Davis said he left when the police arrived, saw them and "I just kept going.”
”All I do know is Ray is a great guy, he's awesome,” Davis said. “He has great character, everyone on the team knows that. He's a guy of good integrity, great character, hard worker, good player, he comes to work each and every day.”
No timeframe has been given either by the team or the league regarding a potential suspension for McDonald.
”We’ve been in contact with the league on several occasions since this incident took place,” said Baalke. “They know exactly the stance that we’re taking and the things that we’re trying to do to make the best possible decision we can. They’re guiding us but they’re not telling us exactly how to handle this matter. The matter will be handled by the organization.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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