When Chris Culliver was arrested recently on felony-hit-and-run and weapons charges, it was the latest incident in an all too common recurring theme for the San Francisco 49ers. Culliver is not the only 49er to get in trouble with the law, just the most recent. The team has had it’s share of issues with players over the past year or so, and it’s fair to ask if these are hints of bigger issues within the organization.
In addition to Culliver, linebacker Aldon Smith was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence early last season, and was forced to miss five games as he entered rehab for substance abuse. This was not Smith’s first run in with the law as he also faces felony weapons charges against him stemming from a party at his home.
Fellow linebacker Ahmad Brooks was involved in an altercation where he allegedly struck teammate Lamar Divens in the head with a bottle and punched him in the face in June of 2013. No charges were filed and Brooks did not serve any kind of a league or team mandated suspension.
The NFL has had it’s share of problems with it’s players breaking the law off the field, so the 49ers are not alone in this.
San Francisco ended up taking the proper steps in the Smith situation by sending him to rehab, but did allow him to play in the game immediately following his DUI arrest against the Indianapolis Colts. In hindsight, Smith should have sat that game out as well.
It remains to be seen how the team will handle the Culliver situation, and their reaction to it can go a long way in sending a message on where the organization stands on this kind of behavior.
Culliver took some heat before the Super Bowl in 2012 when he made anti-gay comments in an interview. That, coupled with his latest misstep could give the team pause in terms of his future on the roster.
Keep in mind that San Francisco may takes steps to address this situation (and others like it) internally and out of the public eye. Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke are each strong willed men with excellent football minds who may believe that they can work to rehabilitate the troubled players on and off the field.
Regardless of how it’s handled, it must be addressed. Eventually, repeating mistakes like the one Culliver made will come back to bite the franchsie. Only the future will tell if these incidents were with a few random players and have been dealt with, or if a bigger issues resides within the organization itself.
Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images
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