49ers

Reuben Foster does not wait long to show he can be special for 49ers

Reuben Foster does not wait long to show he can be special for 49ers

SANTA CLARA – There is something different about Reuben Foster.

It is similar to when Patrick Willis stepped on the practice field with the 49ers for training camp in 2007. He started out as a backup and had to earn his way onto the field.

All it took was two exhibition games. Brandon Moore was out of the starting lineup. Patrick Willis was in, and seven consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl followed.

Foster is not being handed a starting job with the 49ers. In fact, he faces a more difficult challenge to break into the starting lineup.

In front of Foster is veteran Malcolm Smith at the weakside linebacker spot. Eventually, Foster’s role in the 49ers’ defense will be the middle linebacker spot, where NaVorro Bowman is entrenched as the starter.

But it’s only a matter of time until Foster asserts himself as an every-down player.

Foster will have to earn his way into the starting lineup. He will have to earn respect with how he practices and plays. That was apparent on Thursday when Bowman was asked whether he watched Foster in college. Bowman gave a tepid review of Foster.

That’s understandable. After all, Foster had not practiced with the team until Friday. He was held out practices during the offseason program as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. It took Bowman a full year before he won his starting job. Bowman started one game as a rookie before establishing himself as a starter and an All-Pro performer the next season.

Bowman is not going to lavish praise on a player who had never made it through an NFL practice – even someone who was the most-accomplished collegiate player on the 49ers’ roster.

Foster received medical clearance on Wednesday to take part on Day 1 of practice when the 49ers opened training camp on Friday. It took almost no time for him to stand out.

Foster intercepted a pass from fellow rookie C.J. Beathard early in Friday’s practice. Then, quite a scene followed. Foster returned it into the end zone through a maze of players -- many of whom were standing behind the line of scrimmage and not even involved in the play.

In his three seasons at Alabama, Foster never intercepted a pass. He was known for his toughness and violent sideline-to-sideline tackling ability.

“It was good to get him out there, get him on the field,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I know he’s been chomping at the bit for a while now. It was good to see him go through it full speed, deal with getting aligned right and stuff. I think he got an interception out there today, which was good for him. It was a good first day.”

Foster could quickly turn into the most-exciting player on a team that is severely lacking in star quality. The 49ers targeted him early in the draft process as a player they wanted. Then, he had to check out physically and mentally for the team to determine when he was a person they wanted, too. When he visited the 49ers before the draft, general manager John Lynch became even more intrigued.

“He’s got an excitement that’s infectious,” Lynch said. “He’s an alpha dog. He wants to lead. He’s ready, he’s eager and we are certainly excited to watch him play.”

The 49ers did not believe his shoulder was a major issue. According to national reports, some teams removed him from their draft boards over concerns about his health. The 49ers would have taken him with the No. 3 pick in the draft if Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas were selected with the top two picks.

Concerns over Foster’s health and a diluted urine sample, which immediately places him into the NFL program for substances of abuse, were the only justifications for his tumble to the end of the first round. The 49ers found a trade partner in the Seattle Seahawks and took Foster with the No. 31 overall pick.

Some teams probably really did have serious concerns about his shoulder. And perhaps those concerns were justified. But, maybe, the teams that could have drafted him feel the need to cover their own backsides for passing on someone who has the look of a special player.

QUICK SLANTS
--Six years after Mike Singletary's hill was leveled at the team's practice facility, a new inclined training tool has been added. This one does not include dirt or grass. It's a large ramp, supported with steel beams, and covered in a synthetic surface. The structure along the east side of the 49ers' weight room is a 30-percent grade that stretches approximately 30 feet off the ground.

When asked if he had ever seen anything quite like it, 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk said, laughing, "A man-made hill like that? No, nothing attached to the weight room like that. I've seen some hills in my day, but nothing like that."

--Defensive lineman Solomon Thomas jogged onto a side field 75 minutes into practice after signing his rookie contract. He passed the team's conditioning test but watched the remainder of practice after going through his workout. He is scheduled to practice on Saturday.

--Jaquiski Tartt took over at free safety with the 49ers' first-team defense in place of Jimmie Ward, who sustained a left hamstring injury during the conditioning test Thursday and was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list.

--Rookie receiver B.J. Johnson sustained a left leg injury early in practice and watched the remainder of the practice with ice on his leg.

--Cornerback Dontae Johnson lined up opposite of Rashard Robinson with the first-team defense. Johnson sustained what appeared to be a minor right shoulder injury that sidelined him for a few plays late in practice.

--Ronald Blair and Eric Reid intercepted Brian Hoyer passes. Blair's interception came after Eli Harold, who saw a lot of action at strongside linebacker with the first team, tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage. Ray-Ray Armstrong made the defensive play of the day when he ran stride-for-stride with running back Joe Williams along the right sideline to break up a pass, nearly making an over-the-shoulder interception.

Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'

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USATSI

Roger Goodell: 'What we are trying to stay out of is politics'

NEW YORK — The NFL is not changing its national anthem policy to require players to stand during the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners said Wednesday at the league’s fall meetings that altering the language from “should stand” to “must stand” was not discussed.

New York Giants owner John Mara noted that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones “spoke at length” to the other owners about the anthem issue. Jones has said any Dallas player who doesn’t stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” would not be playing.

Goodell reiterated that the league and its 32 clubs “believe everyone should stand for the national anthem. It’s an important part of our policy and the game. It’s important to honor our flag and our country and I think our fans expect that.”

Asked about any owners who threatened discipline for players who didn’t stand, Goodell said the owners didn’t discuss it.

“There was a fair amount of conversation and I think our clubs see it the same way. I can’t deal with hypotheticals,” Goodell said.

Reminded that President Donald Trump tweeted again Wednesday about the demonstrations during the anthem, Goodell said there was nothing unpatriotic about his league.

“Everyone feels strongly about our country and have pride,” he said, adding the NFL is “not afraid of tough conversations.

“What we are trying to stay out of is politics.”

Goodell noted that only six or seven players are still kneeling or are involved in protests.

“We hope we will continue to work to put that at zero,” he said.

On Tuesday, in an unprecedented move for a league meeting, a group of 11 owners and more than a dozen players met for more than two hours at NFL headquarters. Among the topics discussed was enhancing the players’ platforms for speaking out on social issues.

“I understand the way they feel about these issues,” Goodell said Wednesday. “We feel the same about patriotism and the flag and I believe our players feel that way. We have a great deal of support for the efforts of our players.”

Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem

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AP

Trump blasts NFL for not demanding players stand during national anthem

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is again criticizing the NFL over players kneeling during the national anthem.

Trump said on Twitter Wednesday that the “NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem.”

He adds: “Total disrespect for our great country!”

Trump appeared to be responding to the NFL annual fall meeting on Tuesday. The league invited players and representatives from their union to discuss social issues.

The topic of the national anthem was not discussed at length. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said owners did not ask players to commit to standing during the anthem.

Trump has suggested the owners should “fire” any players who knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”