KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was nearly a perfect night for Reuben Foster, whom some medical experts around the NFL reportedly thought would be sidelined for his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury.
The shoulder was the least of Foster’s concerns following the 49ers’ 27-17 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Foster was still a little upset that his life-long streak without an interception in a game continued. He had an opportunity, but it slipped through his hands.
But his greater concern as he got dressed in the team’s cramped locker room was he could find only one sock and one of his shoes.
Otherwise, Foster was ebullient when reflecting on his first practice game with the team that traded up to select him with the No. 31 overall pick.
“It went well. It went great. It went awesome,” Foster said. “It’s wonderful to be back in the game mode, just to go that fast and hit and thump.”
Foster started alongside NaVorro Bowman at the team’s weakside linebacker position. Malcolm Smith had been in that spot since his arrival as the team’s highest-paid free-agent pickup. But Smith was lost a week ago to a season-ending torn pectoral tendon.
Foster has been a bright spot for the 49ers during training. As a rookie, sure, he blows a few assignments. But he also has more than compensated with four interceptions during 11-on-11 drills.
But as for games, he is still looking for his first pick.
In his life.
At any level of football.
He nearly got it on the Chiefs’ opening drive. He had perfect coverage against tight end Demetrius Harris in the end zone. Alex Smith’s pass was in his hands, but it got away.
“I was mad at myself,” Foster said.
“I thought I could have caught a pick,” Foster said through his omnipresent wide smile. “A pass breakup is always great.”
Foster played 27 snaps in his first game. Only three 49ers defenders played more: Lorenzo Jerome (33), and Solomon Thomas and Ahkello Witherspoon (both, 28). The 49ers wanted Foster to gain a lot of experience in the scheme and use the night to learn as much as possible. But, also, the team is down a couple of inside linebackers with Brock Coyle (ribs) and Donavin Newsom (concussion) out with injuries.
The 49ers signed linebackers Jayson DiManche, Austin Calitro and Sean Porter during the week, and they were not prepared to see too much action.
“We were trying not to have them in for too long, so that kept Reuben out there a little bit more,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said.
Foster contributed two tackles but appeared to play assignment-sound football – a positive first step in his likely ascension into the starting lineup for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 against the Carolina Panthers.
“I hope I did great,” Foster said. “We’ll find out (Saturday) when we watch the film. I hope I did great.”
Things were looking up for Foster. His shoulder, which was surgically repaired in February, is giving him no problems. It has not been a concern since he was cleared to practice on the eve of training camp.
Moreover, he eventually found his other sock and shoe before exiting the locker room for the flight home.
However, he is still searching for that elusive interception.