“We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he was to remain a Bear,” General Manager Ryan Pace said in a statement. “He was not able to meet the standard and the decision was made to release him.”
McDonald was arrested last August for a separate domestic violence incident, although charges were never filed. He was then involved in a rape investigation, which is still ongoing, for an alleged incident that happened at his Northern California home.
The incidents led to his release by the San Francisco 49ers.
Bears chairman George McCaskey originally balked at signing McDonald, yet acquiesced after a face-to-face meeting. The team even went so far as to call McDonald's parents.
The Bears hired McDonald's coordinator in San Francisco, Vic Fangio, to be the defensive coordinator in Chicago. Fangio, who vouched for McDonald's character, played a large role in bringing him to the Windy City.
"He put himself in some situations that he didn’t need to be in," Fangio said during rookie minicamp. "But the fact of the matter is he was never charged with anything. The headlines, I think, looked worse than what actually happened, but they happened. He made a mistake putting himself in those positions for that to happen. But ultimately he was not charged with anything. So we felt good about it here."
Fangio said he even reached out to other NFL teams to defend McDonald's character.
"It’s been well reported about the process that we went through here in deciding whether to sign him or to pursue signing him," said Fangio. "At that point where it was said we weren’t going to pursue it, at that point I called two other teams in the league to recommend that they sign Ray. And I called Ray’s agent to tell him 'hey, if you need any character reference, anybody wants to talk to me about Ray, that they might be interested in signing him, have them feel free to call me.' I think that tells you what I feel about him."
For his part, McDonald was very confident in his ability to turn his life and career around in Chicago.
"It’s a fresh start," McDonald said during voluntary minicamp. "I learned a lot from my previous situations, to keep my circle tight. You can’t trust everybody because everybody doesn’t have your best interests at heart. I learned that and I’m just here now to play ball and try to help this team win ballgames.”
He said it wasn't fair to judge him based on his past.
"No, I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair. When you can look on TV and see all this negative stuff said about somebody and people can put out stuff out there that’s not very credible, and it can assassinate someone’s character by doing that. But when you actually get a chance to meet someone and hear their side of the story, you get to get it for what it really is."
On the field, McDonald could have provided a big boost, as he's an experienced, productive 3-4 defensive end familiar with Fangio's system. After three strikes, it's very likely McDonald's career in the NFL is over.