From the moment the pre-draft process started, it was nothing like Reuben Foster imagined.
A much-talked about moment at the Scouting Combine involving a hospital worker, rumors about the progress of his surgically repaired shoulder that won’t die, questions about his childhood friends — it has all gotten to the highly touted Alabama linebacker.
“Hectic, stressful, very stressful,” Foster said over the phone to NFL.com, after concluding roughly 20 team visits. “It’s like the devil is coming after me.”
And now comes the latest.
Last month, Foster was notified that his urine sample obtained in Indianapolis during the combine was reported as dilute. Based on the provisions of the NFL’s policy and program for substances of abuse, “this will be treated like a positive test.”
In discussing his trying few months, Foster disclosed the test results to NFL.com because, he says, “This is something that’s going to get out. I don’t make excuses. I’m a real dude. I try to be a good person. … I just hope the coaches understand and that’s all I can hope and pray for.” Foster has already been on the phone talking with teams telling them himself.
As for why the test came back dilute, Foster explained in detail. He said he was sick before the combine. He was throwing up, had diarrhea, couldn’t keep anything down and was cramping. One adviser offered to have a doctor put him on IVs to hydrate, but he didn’t want that. He saw a doctor, got some medication and started hydrating himself.
Foster believes it was food poisoning.
“I couldn’t eat much, but I had to drink water and Gatorade,” said Foster, who began the process as the consensus top linebacker based on his game tape and measurables. “Then a few coaches said something about me being too light. And I’m a coach-pleaser. I don’t care what everybody thinks, but I care what coaches think. So I drank and ate as much as I could without throwing up. Then I went in there, drinking and drinking water, trying to flush out my system from whatever was making me sick and trying to keep my weight up and took the test.”
The result was the diluted test, Foster says.
And more stress, along with questions about his draft stock. Foster knows this will likely negatively affect where he’s selected.
“If it’s first round, second round, whoever takes me will get a good football player and an All-Pro,” Foster said. “I hope I go on Thursday, but I can’t control that.”
Foster, who weighed 229 pounds at 6-foot, knows he’ll be in the NFL’s drug program. Periodic and unannounced tests will start when he signs an NFL contract.
“Put me in the program,” he said. “Test me.”
Of course, this was far from the only thing he dealt with during the process. The star inside linebacker on Alabama’s vaunted defense, Foster had surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff after the season. At combine rechecks, doctors found it was on schedule, though there have been media reports that he may need a second surgery (which has frustrated Foster).
“I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do, but no matter what I do, it doesn’t come out right,” he said.
In Indy, Foster got into a heated altercation with a hospital worker and was sent home prior to completing his medical exam. He later sent a letter to teams apologizing for his dismissal. Foster had been waiting an extended period of time.
“I apologized for that, I’ve learned from it,” Foster said. “That’s in the past and it won’t happen again.” Foster spoke right before addressing his former Bama teammates about the pre-draft process and what it’s been like.
Some teams also had questions about the company Foster keeps, though as he says, “I came from a rough environment, I’m my own man. Growing up, those were the people from my neighborhood. At college, my teammates became my family.”
Foster graduated from Alabama and called the plays for their complex defense. Meanwhile, other media reports questioned his smarts.
Foster said this process has been mentally draining and taxing. But he said he’s grateful for it and is looking forward to Thursday.
On the flip side, no one has questions about Foster as a football player.
“Big-time player,” one GM said. “Beast.”
That’s the consensus. But only time will tell how teams will react to the entirety of it.
Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.