San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald (91) sits on the bench during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar
March 24, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) Even the chairman of the Chicago Bears had his doubts about pursuing former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald.

In fact, George McCaskey turned down the idea at first. A face-to-face meeting helped change his mind.

On Tuesday, the Bears agreed to a one-year contract with McDonald despite his past issues with the law.

Bringing in McDonald, who played under new Chicago defensive coordinator Vic Fangio in San Francisco, could be controversial in Chicago given his legal troubles.

''We have a 96-year tradition of doing things a certain way, of bringing a certain type of player into our team,'' McCaskey said at the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

''And those were my concerns going into the conversation with Ray. But I think you look at every situation individually. You try to find out as much information as you can that's reliable to make the best decision you can about whether to offer a player the privilege of becoming a Chicago Bear.''

The 49ers cut McDonald in December after a woman accused him of sexually assaulting her following a night of drinking in which she injured her head in a fall by his swimming pool.

''Those things we've looked into,'' general manager Ryan Pace said in Phoenix. ''I can tell you this, we know those are ongoing. But we wouldn't be where we're at right now if we didn't feel comfortable with where that's at. So it's been thorough.''

The Bears also announced Tuesday a one-year deal with defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who spent the past four seasons with the Washington Redskins.

As for McDonald, the woman who accused him of sexual assault told authorities she has no memory of the encounter at his San Jose house. The Santa Clara County district attorney is considering whether to file criminal charges.

McDonald filed a defamation lawsuit last week, saying security camera footage will show a consensual sexual encounter occurred in his hot tub.

In November, the Santa Clara County district attorney's office announced it had declined to file charges against the defensive lineman in a separate domestic violence investigation.

The acquisition of McDonald is an eye-opening move for Chicago considering Pace has talked about building around high-character players since he was hired in January.

He traded receiver Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets, parting with a player who no longer seemed to fit in the locker room with a new regime taking over.

McDonald's signing raises questions about the value the organization places on character.

McCaskey initially told Pace not to pursue McDonald. But he was open to the idea when McDonald proposed a face-to-face meeting.

He paid his way to Chicago and met with the chairman for two hours, a conversation that McCaskey described as ''very candid, very forthright'' and ''difficult.''

When McDonald suggested he call his college coach Urban Meyer, McCaskey responded that he wanted to talk to McDonald's parents. McCaskey was not surprised they endorsed their son, but their support system impressed him.

He also said there was not one specific tipping point for him, that it was the ''sum of the entire conversation.''

It's rare that McCaskey intervenes in a player personnel decision. He said the only other times that happened were when the Bears cut Sam Hurd in 2011 following his arrest on federal drug charges and when they traded for Marshall in 2012.

With the McDonald deal, he even sought approval from his mom, team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.

''In the end she put her trust in me and I'm putting my trust in Ryan,'' George McCaskey said.

Pace also relied on feedback from Fangio and new defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who came from the 49ers.

''We looked at it on a case-by-case basis,'' Pace said. ''It's a one-year, prove-it deal. And everything we do in our business, every decision I make, there's risk involved. I understand that.

''I think then it's just on me to be thorough through this whole process, and I feel good about where we're at. I think the intimate knowledge that Vic and Ed had helped a lot, helped me feel good about this right now.''

McDonald had 19 1/2 sacks, 29 tackles for losses, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries in eight seasons with the 49ers. He made 14 starts last season and was credited with 39 tackles and three sacks.

Jenkins has 76 tackles in his career, including a career-high 29 last year. He sat out the 2011 season because of a knee injury after being drafted in the second round that spring.


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