Reuben Foster’s time with the 49ers began slowly this spring. The former Alabama star linebacker was rehabbing following surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, so he was prohibited from contact of any kind.
But that’s about to change.
When training camp opens – players are scheduled to report July 27 – Foster is expected to be cleared for takeoff.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan recently told reporters Foster has been “doing great with his rehab” and that he'll be “more than ready to go” when camp opens.
That should allow Foster, the 49ers’ second first-round pick of the recent draft, to begin competing for a starting job. With NaVorro Bowman set at middle linebacker and Ahmad Brooks presumed the starter on one side of the new 4-3 scheme, Foster likely will compete with veteran free-agent addition Malcolm Smith.
Those who’ve seen him play have no doubts Foster will eventually be a star in the NFL. At this week’s Southeastern Conference media gathering, several SEC players pointed to Foster as the best player they’ve played against. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen told reporters Foster was the leader of the rugged Crimson Tide defense and “was probably the best football player I’ve been around.”
Already, 49ers linebackers coach Johnny Holland is a big believer in Foster, and what he could bring to the defense this season.
“Reuben has a natural ability to find the ball and (be) able to strike guys and hit,” he told SB Nation in June. “He’s a physical player, an athletic player that can play sideline to sideline, and he has a very good understanding of the game. It’s hard to find an overall linebacker that can run, strike, hit and have overall game. He showed for two years he’s a top-notch player.”
Foster has been working out with 49ers defensive quality control coach DeMeco Ryans and has appeared to be in great condition as camp nears.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Foster has been learning the team’s defense and will be up to speed for camp.
“He’s very smart,” Saleh told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “He’s absorbing all of the information that we’re giving to him.”