49ers

49ers LB Reuben Foster says return from suspension is like celebrating holiday

49ers LB Reuben Foster says return from suspension is like celebrating holiday

SANTA CLARA – Second-year linebacker Reuben Foster was around his teammates during the first two weeks of the regular season, but Monday marked a new beginning for him.

After serving a two-game suspension for violations of the NFL’s policies on substances of abuse and personal conduct, Foster was able to participate in all team activities when he reported back to work on Monday.

“It’s like a holiday, just knowing I can come back and play the game I love,” Foster said on Thursday. “So I’m just happy to be playing the cards right and doing good off the field and on the field, and doing nothing off the field so I won’t be off the field again.”

Foster, a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2017, admitted during training camp that he feared his career could be over when he faced an allegation of domestic violence. He was cleared of those charges, but served an NFL suspension that stemmed from marijuana and weapons charges.

During his suspension, Foster was able to attend all meetings but was not allowed to attend games, participate in practice, watch practice or take part in team lifting sessions.

Brock Coyle and Elijah Lee started the first two games at weak side linebacker in place of Foster. He is expected to provide the 49ers with a much-needed playmaker on defense upon his return.

“This is his first game back. We’re excited to have him,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, whose locker is stationed next to Foster’s. “He’s excited to be back out there. He brings incredible energy and speed and explosiveness and physicality to the defense, and we appreciate it.”

[RELATED: 49ers injury report: Sherman sits]

Foster will make his season debut on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium. His presence is something coach Andy Reid said his team is game-planning against.

“Reuben’s a good football player,” Reid said. “We looked at him when he came out, liked him, had him visit up here, the whole deal. He’s a heck of a football player, and he flies around and makes plays. We’re going to be aware of where he’s at, and do our best to do well against him.”

Foster's return comes at a good time. The defense is banged up and going against one of the fastest offenses in the NFL.

Said 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, “He’s got fresh legs. He looks fast. So we’re excited to have him back. Love his energy.”

Foster also seems to love his new role in the defense. Rookie Fred Warner is wearing the green dot on his helmet, signifying the responsibility of relaying the radio call from the sideline to his 10 teammates in the huddle.

Because he no longer has that duty on defense, Foster says it allows him up to just play football with a clear mind and “get on someone’s tail.”

Warner, who will remain as the starter in the middle of the 49ers’ defense, appears cut out for that leadership role, Foster said.

“I’ve seen a real dog in Fred, a real mature man who goes about his business,” Foster said. “And I really salute him for that. I’m proud of him for stepping up and taking control of the defense, wearing the green sticker. I’ve worn the green sticker, and it’s hard to wear the green sticker, so I’m really proud of him.”

Chris Simms wouldn't be shocked if 49ers faced Patriots in Super Bowl

Chris Simms wouldn't be shocked if 49ers faced Patriots in Super Bowl

If you're looking for someone to slow down the 49ers' hype train, sorry, NBC Sports' Chris Simms isn't here to help.

Actually, it's quite the opposite.

Simms wants you to know San Francisco's 5-0 record doesn't lack substance, and he expects the 49ers to continue progressing to the highest levels this season.

Are they legitimate Super Bowl contenders?

"Yes they are," Simms told NBC Sports Bay Area on Wednesday. "They're not going anywhere."

"They are arguably the best team in football," Simms continued. "Okay, yeah, I'll give the Patriots the advantage right now because they're the Patriots and we've seen them do it, but when I look at the San Francisco 49ers, I look at -- it's a first-round bye. Is it a one-seed, or is it going to be a two-seed? That's how good the San Francisco 49ers are."

Simms has been impressed by San Francisco's depth and balance, particularly within the offensive and defensive lines.

"It starts up front," Simms explained, "and the 49ers -- yes, Mike McGlinchey's out ... and I know Joe Staley's out, and that hurts, and we might not see him the rest of the year -- but when McGlinchey is back in the fold, this is still one of the best offensive lines in football. Let alone, [Kyle] Shanahan is one of the best game plan designers in football with the run game, the play-action. And the defense ain't going anywhere.

[RELATED: Staley, Witherspoon closest to return among injured 49ers]

"They might be battling it out with the Patriots for the best defense in the sport," he elaborated. "It's the best front four in the sport I think right now, as far as size, physicality, ferociousness, their speed at the linebacker positions. I like Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt at safety. The corners are good, they're coached well."

Put it all together, and Simms believes the 49ers have the potential to play into February.

"The 49ers are for real, and I would not be shocked if we were down in Miami watching New England and San Francisco in the Super Bowl."

Hype train, full speed ahead.

Jalen Ramsey-Aaron Donald best NFL duo? Marcell Harris says this isn't NBA

Jalen Ramsey-Aaron Donald best NFL duo? Marcell Harris says this isn't NBA

The 49ers' much-improved defense has plenty of star power, but so do their rivals in Los Angeles after a blockbuster trade Tuesday. 

The Rams traded a trio of draft picks -- two first-rounders and one fourth-rounder -- to the Jacksonville Jaguars for star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, giving LA two of the NFL best players at their respective positions when you remember that defensive tackle defensive lineman force of nature Aaron Donald also plies his trade in Tinseltown. 

It'd be difficult to find a pair of players on the same defense better than Ramsey and Donald, ESPN's "SportsCenter" account posed the question on Twitter if there is a better duo of defensive cornerstones around the NFL. The problem, according to 49ers safety Marcell Harris? There are nine other players on a defense. 

Harris has a point. Star power can only get you so far in the NFL -- even at historically important positions like quarterback or edge rusher -- because of the league's commitment to parity above all else. When it comes to the NBA, a team with the two best players on the court wins in the regular season and playoffs more often than not. 

[RELATED: Shanahan busts out jokes leading into 49ers vs. Washington]

While this is not necessarily Harris' gripe, the 49ers have a strong case to have a duo under consideration. Whether pairing defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and edge rusher Nick Bosa or swapping out one for one of linebackers Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner, San Francisco has a few cornerstones in its front seven. It's that group that made the Ramsey trade a head-scratcher to NBC Sports Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, who argued that the Rams' offensive line should have been a bigger concern than their secondary considering the 49ers' success in Week 6.

Still, Ramsey and Donald are as good as what they do as just about anyone else in the NFL. The 49ers will get their first look at them in the same defense in Week 16 at Levi's Stadium, and they'll see firsthand whether the duo's dominance lifts the rest of the Rams defense.