Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has never wavered in his support of Ray McDonald this offseason, even when team chairman George McCaskey initially vetoed the idea of signing the talented but controversial free-agent defensive end.
“Obviously I’d been around him for four years, so I knew what kind of guy he was on a daily basis, and nobody gets to know players and players get to know coaches more than when you’re in football because we’re with those guys eight, nine hours a day, and in training camp more,” Fangio said over the weekend at Bears rookie minicamp.
Fangio coached McDonald in San Francisco from 2011-14.
“I know who he is,” Fangio said. “Even you guys, it’s been well reported about the process that we went through here in deciding whether to sign him or to pursue signing him. 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.”
The Bears eventually changed course and agreed on a one-year deal with McDonald on March 24 -- a move that garnered national attention with McDonald being under suspicion of felony domestic violence (law officials later announced that McDonald would not be charged in that case) and sexual assault (that investigation remains open).
Fangio and defensive coach Ed Donatell -- another ex-49ers assistant -- played important roles in convincing team ownership that McDonald can be trusted. McCaskey even spoke with McDonald’s parents before green-lighting the one-year contract.
A month into the club’s voluntary offseason program, Fangio continues to vouch for McDonald, but does admit that McDonald put himself in bad situations off the field.
“Well, [the accusations are] unsettling,” Fangio said. “He put himself in some situations that he didn’t need to be in. 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.”