Ray McDonald San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers lineman Ray McDonald was arrested early Sunday Aug. 31, 2014 on suspicion of felony domestic violence. (Courtesy of the San Jose police department)

The 49ers defense has attracted worthy praise in recent years, often centered on its magnificent front seven, a blue-collar unit that deploys three linemen and four linebackers.

Now, cheers have turned to jeers, tears and fears.

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald is the latest member of that front-seven squadron to find his 2014 season in peril.

Three would-be starters already are out for Sunday's regular-season opener at Dallas, and perhaps into November: outside linebacker Aldon Smith (NFL-imposed, nine-game suspension), inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (knee recovery) and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (biceps recovery).

Arrested early Sunday morning for felony domestic violence at his San Jose home, McDonald's status with the 49ers presumably is being reviewed by the team and the NFL. On Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell unveiled a harsher stance toward domestic-violence cases, especially those in which the victim is pregnant, as is the case with McDonald's incident, according to the Sacramento Bee.

The 49ers had no media access Monday and offered no further comment beyond Sunday's statement from general manager Trent Baalke, who said the team takes "such matters seriously" and will "continue to gather the facts."

The San Jose Police Department said Monday it will not release the 911 call -- apparently from McDonald's pregnant fiancé -- that led to officers' 2:48 a.m. arrival at his home.


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San Jose police Sgt. Heather Randol said in an email: "Only the victim or victim's representative is entitled to the tape." The police report was not immediately available, Randol stating that it can only be obtained through a written request, which would take 10 days to process.

According to police-dispatch audio, obtained by ABC7 News, McDonald's fiancée claimed he was "hitting her" and "was trying to pull her out of the house. She's 10 weeks pregnant and refusing medical."

McDonald's court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 15, a day after the 49ers' regular-season home opener against the Chicago Bears at Levi's Stadium.

If McDonald, an eighth-year veteran, is barred from playing Sunday, third-year lineman Tony Jerod-Eddie likely would start at left defensive tackle, as was the case in three of four exhibitions last month while McDonald recovered from a hamstring strain. Jerod-Eddie started two games last year in place of McDonald, who had endured ankle and biceps injuries.

When the 49ers opened training camp a month ago, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was bracing for the loss of Smith to a suspension and Bowman to knee rehabilitation.

"At times, it will be challenging," Fangio said then. "Any time you lose two great players, somebody's got to go in there and do the job. We don't expect those guys to be as good as those two guys are -- they're at the top of their profession.

"But we'll find a way."

McDonald has started all but three games over the past three seasons, and he's accrued 16 ½ sacks over seven seasons.

Friday, USA Today reported that the 49ers restructured McDonald's contract, likely by converting some of his $3.5 million base salary into a bonus and creating salary-cap space.

For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.