On Thursday, Aug 28, 2014, the NFL announced a tough new policy regarding domestic violence. On Sunday, Aug 31, a player became the first to test it. Years from now, the answer to the trivia question will be, "49ers' Defensive lineman Ray McDonald." Despite the harsh nature of the NFL's new policy (automatic six game suspension for the first offense, and a lifetime ban for the second offense), it took less than 72 hours for a player to violate it.
On Sunday morning at approximately 2:00 a.m., McDonald was arrested on felony charges of domestic violence. He allegedly abused his pregnant girlfriend, who had visible bruises when police arrived. Of course, there are still details to be sorted out, and McDonald has already proclaimed his innocence. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. If McDonald is suspended, it will further deplete an already thinning 49ers defense. This comes just two days after the NFL announced that OLB Aldon Smith will be suspended for the first nine games of the upcoming season, for having violated the league's personal conduct policy.
Looking at the Niners's previously stout defense, Smith is out due to suspension, LB NaVorro Bowman will miss at least the first six games of the season while he continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee, DL Glenn Dorsey is out until at least late in the season, with a torn biceps, and now this latest incident with McDonald.
Over the past three seasons, San Francisco has made it to the NFC championship game, having gone to the Super Bowl once. Prior to training camp, they were considered a front-runner to make another deep playoff run this season as well. It is quite possible the entire defense will be back intact for the last month of this season. The real question, is whether or not they will still be in realistic playoff contention in those final weeks.
This season, San Francisco Head coach Jim Harbaugh has his work cut out for him.