NFL's 49ers release McDonald amid sexual assault investigation

Sep 14, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald (91) looks on during the second quarter of the game against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium. Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
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By Steve Ginsburg (Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers released defensive tackle Ray McDonald on Wednesday after police said he was a possible suspect in a sexual assault case. San Jose police said they were investigating the assault of a woman seeking treatment at a hospital on Tuesday when officers determined that McDonald might have been involved in the incident. Police then searched the San Jose home of McDonald, an eight-year National Football League veteran. No arrests have been made and the investigation is continuing, police said. The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office declined last month to file charges against McDonald after a 10-week investigation into allegations he assaulted his pregnant fiancée. "We as an organization have notified (McDonald) and his agent that he will be terminated, released immediately," 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. With the NFL under fire for bungling cases of domestic abuse by its players, several teams took players accused of domestic violence off the field. The 49ers, however, allowed McDonald to keep playing during the earlier investigation while the legal process played out. "While this organization has a strong belief in due process and has demonstrated that over time, Ray has demonstrated a pattern of poor decision-making that has led to multiple distractions for this organization and this football team that can no longer be tolerated," Baalke said. The NFL Players Association declined comment. McDonald, 30, was selected in the third round of the 2007 NFL draft by San Francisco and has played his entire pro career with the 49ers. The NFL recently strengthened its policies in dealing with domestic violence. Ray Rice was cut by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the NFL after a video emerged of him punching his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City casino hotel elevator. An arbitrator has since allowed Rice back into the league, although he has yet to sign with another club. Former NFL Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson was suspended until at least next April 15 after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault for hitting his 4-year-old son with a tree branch. (Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney)