McDonald arrest latest blow for defense

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
1:35
PM ET
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Beyond the real-world implications wrought by Ray McDonald’s arrest on suspicion of domestic violence, the defensive lineman’s legal trouble is another blow to an already weakened San Francisco 49ers defense.

It is not so much a matter of if but when McDonald is served with a six-game suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under his more stringent policy for domestic violence offenses.

General manager Trent Baalke issued a statement.
“The 49ers organization is aware of the recent reports regarding Ray McDonald and we take such matters seriously. As we continue to gather the facts, we will reserve further comment.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh has taken a strong stance in general in the past on violence toward women.

“He said that we can do anything in the world and we can come and talk to him and he’ll forgive us, except put our hands on women,” former 49ers safety Donte Whitner said last season, according to the Sacramento Bee. “If you put your hand on a woman, then you’re done in his book.”

Besides McDonald’s pending status -- backups are Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial -- the 49ers are already without outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who was given a nine-game unpaid suspension Friday for numerous transgressions. Plus, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out for at least six weeks and more likely half the season as he recovers from a devastating knee injury suffered in the NFC title game.

Then there’s nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who is likely headed to the injured reserve/designated to return list, which would keep him out at least eight games as he recovers from surgery on a torn biceps.

Inside linebacker Patrick Willis has also been banged up in the preseason with a stinger, and the secondary essentially has three new starters to go with Pro Bowl free safety Eric Reid.

Still, per the NFL’s conduct policy, discipline handed down by the league might not be swift.

“Unless the available facts clearly indicate egregious circumstances, significant bodily harm or risk to third parties or an immediate and substantial risk to the integrity and reputation of the NFL,” the policy reads, “a first offense generally will not result in discipline until there has been a disposition of the proceeding (or until the investigation is complete in the case of noncriminal misconduct).”

But with Goodell’s new, tougher stance on domestic violence -- six games for a first offense, a lifetime ban for a second -- in the wake of his self-described mishandling of the Ray Rice case, in which he gave the Baltimore Ravens running back a two-game suspension, the commissioner might act faster than he has in the past.

Paul Gutierrez

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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