The official stance taken by the San Francisco 49ers and general manager Trent Baalke when it comes to their latest off-the-field problem: linebacker Ahmad Brooks facing misdemeanor sexual battery charges did not catch them by surprise.
Or, as Baalke told reporters in Colorado on Thursday morning, where the team is holding joint practices with the Denver Broncos, Brooks facing these specific legal issues is “not a new matter,” rather, it’s a “new development within that matter.”
That begs the question, does that make it more acceptable?
The possibility of Brooks facing charges has existed since at least May when civil charges were filed, alleging he groped am unconscious woman at former 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald’s house.
So, yeah, the 49ers have known something could be coming down the judicial highway. But again, does that make it better? Because the Brooks episode is really the latest in a series of missteps for an organization trying desperately to regain its footing.
The Niners’ take is eerily similar to their reaction when new receiver Jerome Simpson was slapped with a six-game suspension last week for mistakes he committed before the 49ers signed him this offseason to compete for the No. 3 receiver spot.
Again, the team knew something could be coming, but they were willing to gamble on Simpson and, well, it backfired. Plus, you also get the sense the 49ers thought the league would go easier on former linebacker Aldon Smith last summer instead of hitting him with a nine-game suspension. And after his fifth arrest since 2011, his third involving DUI, the team had no choice but to cut the former All-Pro pass rusher.
That was less than three weeks ago.
Truly, though, the Niners’ offseason saga has been in effect since the final whistle blew on their dysfunctional season last December. Consider:
Following the season finale, the team announced it was mutually parting ways with coach Jim Harbaugh, though many observers believed Harbaugh was forced out.
Then there were the notable roster defections, with four starters retiring in linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland, defensive lineman Justin Smith and right tackle Anthony Davis. Then came the free agent losses with running back Frank Gore (Colts), receiver Michael Crabtree (Raiders), left guard Mike Iupati (Cardinals), right tackle Jonathan Martin (Panthers, before retiring), linebacker Dan Skuta (Jaguars) and cornerbacks Perrish Cox (Titans) and Chris Culliver (Washington).
Fullback Bruce Miller, after an altercation with his then-fiancee and arrest, stayed away from the team in offseason workouts until he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace. He still could potentially face discipline from the league and did not practice on Tuesday as he was dealing with “personal” issues, per coach Jim Tomsula.
The grass being unable to grow at Levi’s Stadium has become a sore subject. The Niners’ first 11 practices were supposed to be held in the $1.3 billion stadium, though only three were due to poor field conditions .
Then there’s Aldon Smith’s fall, his arrest coming some 48 hours after Baalke said the team was looking to sign him to a contract extension.
Simpson’s suspension was originally 10 games, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, though it was reduced to six games and the feeling was that because Simpson did not play last year--– the Minnesota Vikings cut him while he was serving a three-game ban -- the league might see it as time served.
And now, Brooks. It is interesting to note that when the Niners released McDonald last season for what Baalke described as a “pattern of poor decision-making,” Brooks also has a rap sheet with the 49ers, so to speak.
In 2013, Brooks was cited in a police report for hitting then-teammate Lamar Divens over the head with a beer bottle and punching him in the face, though charges were never filed. And last season he was benched after a heated sideline argument mid-game with then-defensive line coach Tomsula, who is now the head coach, and was later suspended a game for missing a team meeting. And in 2008, while with the Cincinnati Bengals, Brooks was accused of punching a woman in the face.
Baalke, though, said, “Every situation is different.”
Last year, the Niners took much criticism for invoking “due process” in standing behind McDonald and allowing him to play after his Labor Day weekend arrest for domestic violence. McDonald was a key component of the defensive line.
He was released after another arrest and, it should be noted, the day after the 49ers were eliminated from the NFC playoff race.
Brooks is a similar situation, at least from a pure football standpoint. The Niners cannot afford to lose him as he was primed to replace Aldon Smith at right outside linebacker.
Without Brooks, the team is left with four outside linebackers, none of whom are prototypical edge rushers, in Corey Lemonier, Aaron Lynch, third-round draft pick Eli Harold and undrafted rookie Marcus Rush.
A bad eight months? It’s been a bad three years. According to the Sacramento Bee, the charge against Brooks is the 13th time a 49ers player has been arrested or charged with a crime since 2012.
It would all seemingly make the Niners wish for more tone-deaf #7tormsComing Tweets from quarterback Colin Kaepernick or added talk about the Levi’s Stadium grass to change the narrative.
Maybe that would be more acceptable in this current climate.