SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Since the San Francisco 49ers traded up to use the No. 31 pick on linebacker Reuben Foster in this year's NFL draft, Foster has pointed to training camp as his target for a return from right-shoulder surgery.
So it was at least a mild surprise to see Foster participating in organized team activities when the Niners stepped on the field this week for the first time with the full roster in attendance. Not that Foster was going full speed or participating in everything, but it was at least an encouraging sign to see the Alabama product getting some work in individual drills.
According to coach Kyle Shanahan, that is still the plan for Foster.
“Reuben, everything out there he’s got to watch," Shanahan said. "We’ve allowed him to participate in anything that there’s no possibility of contact. So, if he’s doing any of the individual drills and not going against people, then he’s able to do everything because he can run and do it all. He just ... we’ve got to be able to avoid collisions right now. He’s trying to stay locked in. I know it’s hard for him. He wants to run around out there, but he can’t do it. We’ve got to be smart with it. We can’t set him back.”
Foster is still in the midst of his rehabilitation from a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, and though there has been plenty of speculation about how effective Foster's surgery was, neither he nor the Niners have offered any indication that he won't be able to participate more by the training camp rolls around.
In the meantime, Foster is going through the individual drills and avoiding contact while spending most of the team drills sidled up to assistant coach DeMeco Ryans. At one point in Tuesday's practice, Foster was seen emulating a repetition while his fellow linebackers were working on their run fits.
For now, the Niners are rolling with Malcolm Smith at weakside linebacker, NaVorro Bowman in the middle and Ahmad Brooks on the strong side. Foster has the ability to play in the middle, but Shanahan indicated that his preparation has been geared more to the weak side.
“He hasn’t been out there yet," Shanahan said. "I think he’s been focusing more on Will [linebacker]. But, at that position, you’ve got to know both of them.”