Robert Saleh Defends Jets’ Workout of Troubled First-Round Linebacker

Reuben Foster 49ers

Getty Ex-San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster making a play on Russell Wilson.

The New York Jets made some headlines for all the wrong reasons on Thursday morning September 2.

According to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport, Gang Green was scheduled to work out former San Francisco 49ers’ first-round pick Reuben Foster.

The talented linebacker has a checkered past that has raised a lot of red flags about his future in the sport.

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Jets’ HC Defends the Scheduled Workout

The report of the workout leaked ahead of Jets’ head coach Robert Saleh’s press conference which of course was a major topic of conversation.

“We haven’t met with Reuben [Foster] yet. This is simply crossing t’s and dotting i’s in regards to our emergency list with this scheduled workout.”

Later in the press conference, he was asked about it again but more specifically the troubling history with domestic violence:

“I know him personally and I can assure you that we would never bring somebody into this organization that we didn’t think would represent it the right way.”

Saleh vehemently defended the workout by saying that is all it was but also saying he has a personal relationship with the player.

Foster was drafted in 2017 and coach Saleh was hired as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator that offseason. So he has an intimate knowledge of both the pre-draft process eval and was with him throughout his entire tenure with the team in San Fran.

If anyone knows Foster and the pros vs cons of a potential signing, it is certainly the Jets’ head coach.

The former Al was taken with the No. 31 overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, but he was projected to go much higher.

During the leadup to the NFL draft, Foster got into a heated argument at the NFL combine and was sent home prior to meeting with teams. In addition to that, the talented linebacker failed his drug test.

On top of those issues, Foster got into a series of issues once he got to the league.

He was originally charged with felony domestic violence for forcefully attempting to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and possession of an assault weapon. A judge later dismissed two of those chargers and the weapons charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor.

After another domestic violence charge, the 49ers decided to move on from the former first-rounder.

There were several situations involving Foster and his ex-girlfriend Elissa Ennis:

  • The couple was involved in a verbal altercation in which, “Foster slapped her phone out of her hand and pushed her in the chest area, and slapped her with an open hand on the left side of her face, per Tampa police.
  • There was also a separate incident where Foster was arrested for “suspicion of domestic violence and possession of a weapon (loaded rifle)” that we mentioned earlier. His ex originally told one story about Foster hitting her then later recanted it, per ESPN.

After being released by the 49ers he was claimed off of waivers by the Washington Football Team but never played in a game because Foster spent time on the commissioner’s exempt list and tore both his ACL and LCL.

He initially suffered that injury in May of 2019 and was out for that season and then he was placed on PUP a year later but was once again slapped on injured reserve and missed the 2020 campaign.

Weighing Pros vs. Cons

The talent of Foster is undeniable, the need for linebacker help on the Jets is undeniable, although his character is certainly in question.

General manager Joe Douglas said at his initial press conference that he wanted to build the best culture in sports. Adding a player with Foster’s checkered past, even though most of it he has been cleared of, would be the first time he added someone with that level of off-the-field issues during his time running the show.

The talented 27-year old hasn’t played an NFL snap since 2018.

Foster was often compared to Carolina Panthers’ legend Luke Kuechly during the draft buildup. He’s an instinctive player and is a modern linebacker that can be capable both in the run and the pass game. He can cover sideline-to-sideline and has the ability to take care of business against opposing tight ends and running backs in the passing game.

At this point this is nothing more than a workout and the Jets’ interest will be based on how that workout went. With that being said, the fact that Gang Green even went through with it and potentially added Foster to their emergency list heading into the year means that they’re serious about possibly adding him down the road.

No question he could help and imagine Foster lining up next to CJ Mosley in the middle of a Saleh defense. It could be a special tandem if it comes to fruition later down the line.

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