It took the Bears less than six hours Monday to release Ray McDonald after the defensive end was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor domestic violence and child endangerment.
It will take longer for the team to distance itself from the decision to sign McDonald only 62 days earlier.
According to the Santa Clara (Calif.) Police Department, officers were dispatched to McDonald’s home at 3:48 a.m. after he was accused of assaulting a woman holding a baby. He left his residence before police arrived and was arrested at 7 a.m. at the San Jose home of former 49ers teammate Justin Smith.
“We believe in second chances, but when we signed Ray we were very clear what our expectations were if he were to remain a Bear,” GM Ryan Pace said in a release. “He was not able to meet the standard, and the decision was made to release him.”
That call carried significant weight, considering the levels of Bears officials that endorsed one-year, $1.05 million contract March 24.
New Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio lobbied the Bears — and two other teams — to sign McDonald after coaching him the previous four years in San Francisco.
Chairman George McCaskey initially dismissed the idea, but was swayed when the 30-year-old flew himself to Halas Hall. McCaskey even called McDonald’s parents while researching his character, and eventually signed off on the most controversial move of Pace’s first offseason with the Bears.
“I was impressed with how sincere he was and how motivated he is,” McCaskey said in March. “He understands, I think, that he could have well been facing the end of his football career.”
That’s likely the case now, given the number of legal incidences in McDonald’s recent past.
He had been released by the 49ers on Dec. 17 for a “pattern of poor decision-making” after being accused of, but never charged with, sexual assault a few days earlier.
On Aug. 31, he was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence after his 30th birthday party. Charges were never filed, in part, police said, because the alleged victim did not cooperate.
The NFL said last month that his August domestic violence arrest did not violate the league’s personal conduct policy, and that it was still investigating the December incident.
Days later, the 6-3, 290-pounder said he felt he “didn’t do anything wrong” on either count. He said it was neither right nor fair to judge him.
“People can put out stuff there that’s not very credible, and it can assassinate someone’s character by doing that,” he said after a voluntary veteran minicamp practice at Halas Hall.
Releasing McDonald comes with no financial consequences; his $870,000 base salary was not guaranteed, and the Bears will not have to pay any bonuses.
Other damages — to the team’s starting lineup, roster makeup and image — will play out starting this week, when the team begins OTAs on Wednesday.
At least one Bears player sounded pleased with Monday’s decision. Minutes after McDonald was released, Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long Tweeted two words: “Good riddance.”