49ers boot McDonald amid sex assault invest­igation


SANTA CLARA — San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke announced Wednesday the team has decided to terminate Ray McDonald‘s contract in light of recent sexual assault allegations that surfaced earlier Wednesday.

McDonald is part of an ongoing investigation being conducted by the San Jose Police Department after an unnamed victim received treatment for signs of sexual assault at a local area hospital on Tuesday.

Although no charges have been filed against McDonald yet, Baalke stated the 49ers organization took a proactive approach in releasing the troubled lineman, as Wednesday’s allegations mark the second time he has come under investigation for assault against women this season:

“This organization has a strong belief in due process, and has demonstrated that over time. Ray’s demonstrated a path of poor decision making that has led to multiple distractions for this organization and this football team that really can no longer be tolerated.”

Earlier this season, McDonald was the subject of a felony domestic abuse investigation stemming from an Aug. 31 arrest after a quarrel between himself and his spouse. After being cleared of those charges last month, McDonald had again found himself under suspicion of assault, prompting Baalke and the rest of the organization to cut the former third-round pick:

“When it becomes a pattern of poor decision making, which it has in this case, there comes a time when it leaves you with no other decision to be made but the one we made today.”

Baalke, who claimed to have prior conversations with McDonald regarding his conduct following his August arrest, wouldn’t comment on whether or not Wednesday’s early decision was in indication of perceived guilt. However, he was hesitant in offering his response:

“What I can tell you is I was extremely disappointed, as all of us were to hear of the latest allegations. And once again, this isn’t about guilt or innocence in this specific situation, because we still do believe in due process.”

The 49ers decision to forego the legal process may have also come as an attempt to save their tarnishing image around the league and the media. The 49ers have had a slew of legal issues dating back to last season that have hung a dark cloud over the organization.

San Francisco’s decision to immediately cut ties with McDonald may help to stem the tide of criticism the team would have endured had he stayed on the roster through the remainder of the season.

Wednesday’s decision was a collective agreement between Balkee, owner Jed York and head coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh informed the team, including QB Colin Kaepernick, of the decision prior to Wednesday’s practice:

“It’s tough, he was a good friend to a lot of people on this team. No one around him ever thought bad of him. He was always a good person to everyone around here. So hopefully it’s just a misunderstanding.”

Although the NFL has been notified of the recent allegations against McDonald, the league played no part in prompting the 49ers decision, according to Baalke. However, the league will still retain the right to investigate, and pursue action against McDonald.

One week ago NFL owners voted to change the way the NFL conduct’s its investigations into violations of the policy. McDonald will now be subject to an independent council for discipline instead of commissioner Roger Goodell.

As of Wednesday afternoon, McDonald’s locker was not yet cleared from the Levi’s Stadium locker room. It is unclear yet as to who will take McDonald’s spot on the 53-man roster. McDonald’s dismissal from the team may spell increased playtime for second year player Tank Carradine, who has failed to amass much playing time during the season.

Carradine, who was selected in the second round of the 2013 draft, saw valuable time in last week’s loss to the Seahawks, netting two sacks during the fourth quarter of the loss.

With fellow DT Justin Smith possibly facing retirement, the 49ers can use the remainder of the season as a chance to groom Carradine into a possible starter for the 2015 season.

Follow @SFBay and @ShawnWhelchel on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the San Francisco 49ers.

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