SANTA CLARA – Of course, it crossed the mind of 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster that his football career could be over.
Foster, in his first public comments since going through a tumultuous offseason and receiving a two-game suspension from the NFL, said he felt something he loves could have easily been taken away from him after just one season in the NFL.
“It was a big learning experience,” Foster said Saturday after the 49ers' first padded practice of training camp. “I learn from every mistake, everything that’s said, all my flaws. I learned from a lot of things and just grew from it.
“It made me appreciate football a lot better. It was crazy, knowing that football can be gone. Being back on this field with my brothers and these coaches, man, is a blessing.”
Foster said the biggest lesson from his offseason was to approach life with the same energy and dedication as he approaches football.
“I learned every day I got to go harder at everything I do to better myself even more.,” he said. “It’s do or die. Just don’t mess up. Like trying to craft my football. I have to craft my life and go hard at it.”
Foster said he appreciated the support of his teammates, including newcomer Richard Sherman, and the entire 49ers organization. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan did not cave into public pressure to release Foster after his February arrest after an alleged domestic violence incident in Los Gatos.
San Francisco 49ers
When the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office filed formal felony charges, alleging Foster hit his then-girlfriend eight to 10 times in the head, the 49ers expressed their intention to let the process play out.
Lynch and Shanahan exercised patience, while also promising that if Foster had, in fact, struck his girlfriend, the 49ers would release him.
“That’s the message that came through, and I respect it,” Foster said. “I respect it, because if I did, yeah. They stood by me, though. Brotherhood.”
The domestic violence accusations were dismissed on May 23. A Santa Clara County judge determined the District Attorney’s office did not show sufficient evidence to proceed with the case. Foster’s former girlfriend testified during the preliminary hearing that she lied during her initial statements to investigators as revenge against Foster, who told her he wanted to break up.
On Saturday when asked if he did anything wrong, Foster chose not to get into any specifics about what occurred.
“I respect your question,” he said, “but I don’t feel like talking about it. Right or wrong, people criticized me and thought I was wrong. But I’m not going to add any fuel to it.”
Foster will not be eligible to play in the 49ers’ first two regular-season games after the NFL ruled he violated the league’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct. He will forfeit $103,024 of his scheduled $875,708 salary for the season.
Foster’s suspension stems from marijuana and weapons charges. His marijuana possession case in Alabama was dismissed after he completed a diversion course. And he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor weapons charge and was sentenced to two years probation and 240 hours of community service and $235 in fines.
“It was painful,” Foster said of the suspension. “It’s football. It’s something I do, something I love. But it is what it is. You accept the consequences and you move on. You take it and you move on. You learn from it, too, and you grow from it.
“Knowing I got people behind me, coaches, my brothers (teammates) texting me, family members who have my back, it feels good when you have somebody (supporting) you. But other than that, it was hard. But (it’s a) small thing to a giant.”