SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York acknowledged in his Monday news conference that it was his decision to let Ray McDonald play to begin the season with the defensive lineman being investigated for domestic violence.
And it was McDonald's behavior that ultimately got McDonald fired earlier this month when he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation.
"When his first issue came up, he was not charged with anything," York said. "We sat down with Ray and said, 'Ray, whether you were guilty or not, you can't put yourself in these types of positions.' And very shortly after that he did that again. You need to make sure people are accountable. That's up to me.
"We might not win the Super Bowl every year, but we can conduct ourselves with class. And we can conduct ourselves in a way that makes me proud. I'll put that on me."
Off-the-field issues, including 10 arrests over a 32-month period, have dogged the Niners in recent years.
"There were other things that we talked to Ray about and there had been incidents with alcohol," York said. "We need to make sure that we are much better with alcohol on this team. And that was one of the things and the next incident that came up with Ray, I have no idea what happened. But I know Ray put himself in another position and it hurts me to know that Ray, who has been a good kid with us, put himself in that position.
"We've had those conversations with Aldon [Smith]. I personally think Aldon's a pretty good kid. He has things that he needs to overcome. When you look back to letting him play in the Indianapolis game (after getting a DUI last year), that was a very, very tough decision and I said that at that point. It's unprecedented that a player would leave in the middle of a season and go to rehab. But, he's got to continue to work on that. He understands that very clearly. And that's something that we need to hold him accountable for and we need to make sure that we keep him going in the right direction."
Smith's name was mentioned in the search warrant affidavit as drinking alchohol with McDonald and the woman who accused McDonald of sexual assault. Smith denied it.
"I talked to the guys today," York said of the 49ers' players. "I talked about winning with class. I said, 'You guys are responsible for how you act outside of this building. Don't get cut because of something you do off the field. You're the one's that control that.'
"And that needs to come directly from me. And when that slips you see level of accountability slip and that's not acceptable. If you want to blast me for something, by all means blast me for that."
Many observers have put the blame for bringing in less-than high quality players at the feet of general manager Trent Baalke. York was asked if he also looks at his GM to draft and sign high quality players.
"Absolutely, absolutely," York said. "And there are guys that, they might not be 100 percent choirboy, perfect quality players, and the NFL is made up of teams that have mixtures of personalities. You need to find a way to get to the guys that are potentially on the edge, that have the ability to really be good guys. And maybe they didn't have the greatest background, they didn't have the greatest upbringing, but that doesn't mean that they're bad people.
"And that's where you get to the teacher (-type coach) to make sure that you find a way to keep those guys instead of going to the other side, keeping them on the side of the road that fits with our core values."