SANTA CLARA – The 49ers will likely continue to monitor the health of rookie linebacker Reuben Foster up until 90 minutes before kickoff Sunday against Washington to determine whether to suit him up as one of the team’s 46 active players.
Foster has been inactive for the past four games due to a high right ankle sprain he sustained on the 11th play of the 49ers’ season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
While Foster has been unable to participate physically in practices, he has taken advantage of the opportunity to work on the mental aspects of the game, 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said.
“He’s been out there every day, walk-through, and all that stuff,” Saleh said. “He’s still getting all those mental reps. And (Wednesday), he was sharp. Lined up. Got people lined up. It was really cool to see because he hasn’t actually taken a live rep since whenever he got hurt. To see the way he commanded the huddle and the way he got people lined up. It was very encouraging.”
Foster excitedly compared the possibility of his returning to action on Sunday to a kid in a candy store. He seemed to be pleading with the team's medical staff to clear him for takeoff.
“Hopefully, they see that child in me that wants some candy,” Foster said. “I want some candy. Let me have some candy.”
But the 49ers are also determined to be cautious with Foster, who figures to be a cornerstone of the team’s defense for many years. The 49ers had Foster rated as the No. 3 draft prospect on their board.
The club traded into the back end of the first round to select Foster with the No. 31 overall pick. If Foster is able to play on Sunday, he would not be expected to be on the field for every snap.
“We don’t plan on just throwing him back out there,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said on “49ers Game Plan,” which airs Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC Bay Area.
“Any time you have a high-ankle sprain, those take a while to heal, which is why he’s missed a month. They also linger, too. It’s something you have to play through once it does heal. You’re going to feel it a little bit.”