SANTA CLARA – There were reports that some NFL teams believed linebacker Reuben Foster would require surgery before ever playing in an NFL game.
On Sunday, Foster will play his ninth game of his rookie season and he said he will not need any kind of offseason surgery on his right shoulder. Foster said his offseason will consist of work with Ray Wright, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, and following the direction of head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson.
“No procedure, just listen to the strength and conditioning coach and really train and just listen to Ferg and do what they ask me to do,” Foster said.
Foster, whom the 49ers chose with the No. 31 overall pick, missed five games early in the season due to a high ankle sprain. He missed another game due to a ribs injury.
In the past two games, Foster left the lineup after sustaining stingers in his neck and shoulder area. But those issues were not related to the surgery he underwent on his right rotator cuff, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said this week.
“The shoulder did not cause any problems, at all,” Foster said. “It’s football. You catch the wrong hit, angle, whatever. It’s a little stinger. It’s no biggie.”
Foster is second on the 49ers with 67 tackles, ranking behind only cornerback Dontae Johnson. Foster admits he will likely have to change his hard-hitting tackling style to maximize his career.
“I need to learn more technique,” Foster said. “Anybody wants to blow through somebody. I got to learn the fundamentals and what the coaches say and get on my technique.”
Foster said he expects to benefit from an entire offseason of working out, rather than merely rehabbing from surgery.
“It’s going to be hard to change my style of play, but that will come with the offseason of getting the right shoulder strength and traps (trapezius) and getting dialed in on body maintenance,” Foster said. “Not holding the shoulder surgery against me, but that I need that training and to find a way to play aggressive and not hurt myself.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes Foster can adjust his game to dish it more punishment while not experiencing the down side of those big collisions.
“This is going to sound ludicrous in a way, but I think he can be even more explosive and more violent when he hits with proper technique," Saleh said. "When he learns to run his feet through contact he’s going to destroy people, without hurting himself. That’s something that he’s got to work on through the offseason is how to tackle the right way, because when you see him he just throws his entire body in there.
"But if he learns to actually accelerate through contact with his shoulder through the sternum or shoulder through the thigh, those hits will just be what’s already explosive will be even twice that. There’s an element that he needs to work on with regards to his technique and tackling to not put his body at so much risk and I truly believe when he does figure it out it’ll be even more explosive.”