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Report: 49ers still back Ray McDonald, plan to play him Sunday night

The Baltimore Ravens released (and the NFL subsequently suspended) Ray Rice earlier this week. Sunday, the Carolina Panthers announced that Greg Hardy, who is awaiting an appeals trial after being found guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend, had been pulled from their lineup.

No such discipline has come for San Francisco DT Ray McDonald, despite his arrest in late August on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Why? First and foremost, because McDonald has yet to have his day in court -- Rice was offered inclusion in a pre-trial intervention program; Hardy appealed his initial guilty verdict and will go before a jury in November.

"I would much rather take shots at my reputation than to put somebody down and judge them before an entire investigation has taken place,'' 49ers CEO Jed York told San Francisco's KNBR last week.

The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reiterated that stance from the team during Sunday's NFL GameDay Morning, seemingly an indication that McDonald will be active for his team's game against Chicago Sunday night. ESPN's Jim Trotter reports that the plan is indeed to play McDonald Sunday night. But Rapoport added that the 49ers will leave open the possibility to change their stance later, should any new evidence contradict McDonald's story.

"The 49ers view the Ray McDonald situation as different [from Rice or Hardy's cases]," Rapoport said. "There's some question if the police will proceed. They believe what Ray McDonald told them. If they find out he has been disingenuous with him, they will cut him."

The 30-year-old McDonald remains under contract through the 2015 season, part of a five-year, $20 million contract signed back in 2011. He suited up for the 49ers in Week 1 at Dallas and recorded three tackles in a victory. The 49ers had left open the possibility of deactivating McDonald for that game; York told reporters that days prior to the game that the front office was "in fact-finding mode" with regard to the alleged incident. 

Last season, the 49ers allowed Aldon Smith to play in a Week 3 game versus Indianapolis just two days after he was arrested on a DUI charge. Smith then took a leave of absence prior to Week 4 but returned to the 49ers in the second half of the season amid myriad off-field issues. Last month, the NFL suspended Smith nine games for violating the league's personal conduct and substance abuse policies.