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John Lynch offers some blunt honesty about talent vs. distractions

It’s a reality in sports, and in much of life.

There is a common refrain in professional sports that teams are willing to put up with more distractions the more talented a player is. We’ve heard countless reports of players getting in trouble with the law, only to be back on the playing field, often before there is even resolution to a given case.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch has dealt with accusations of this with the organization’s handling of Reuben Foster’s domestic violence arrest. While the alleged victim has recanted her testimony, the case is still moving forward, with a court date set for May 8th.

Lynch and the organization have said multiple times that they will see what the legal process reveals with regard to the charges. Lynch said that if it is proven true that Foster struck the woman, he will be released. That raises plenty of questions as to just what “proven true” entails, but Lynch has offered up a sort of bright line rule on this.

The question continues about talent trumping off-field issues, and Lynch acknowledged that to a certain degree in an interview earlier this week. He made it clear that if Foster hit the woman he would be released, but he also acknowledged that a more talented player is generally going to get more tolerance when he is involved in distractions. This is not a shocking revelation, but you don’t really hear executives or coaches actually acknowledge this reality.

Lynch was discussing Foster’s situation on KNBR, and Tom Tolbert asked if he agreed with this notion that the more talent a player has, the more tolerance an organization will have with him.

Tolbert: “I’ve always had a scale, I call it the talent-tolerance scale — the more talent you have, the more tolerance an organization is gonna have for you. Do you agree with that?”

Lynch: “I think to some degree, absolutely. Now, I will say that I think there’s a lot of people who believe, when they believed whatever that was when these charges came out, and then were levied against him, hey, we were keeping him because of the talent. I think that’s why we came out and spoke rather directly, that if this did indeed happen, as great as Reuben is — and shoot, I’ll go out on a limb, and a lot of things have to happen, but I think he’s Hall of Fame talent. He’s got that in him. Whether he becomes that or not, but I think we all know how talented he is. But still, if he did the things he’s alleged to have done, he won’t be here.

“So, I think we spoke pretty strongly on that, but yea, there is some level of that, Tom, and that’s just common sense. I mean, when you’ve got a late round guy and he’s causing problems, you probably aren’t going to have much tolerance on him. We try to have a consistent standard, but of course, talent kind of dictates some level of that. That’s not to say that it’s gonna make certain things OK — because a guy’s extremely talented — but you do have a little more rope with a guy like that.”

I wanted to post the full quotation so people can get the full context of what Lynch is saying. Again, it’s not exactly breaking news that talent factors into some decisions, but it’s notable someone came out and straight said it.

And it does raise the question of just where the line is for Foster in terms of repeated issues. Lynch’s comments about Foster’s talent show just how much he thinks of the linebacker. It will be something to track if Foster finds himself in any additional trouble.