SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ coaching staff is working this training camp with linebacker Reuben Foster to make adjustments to his technique. They want his hands to shoulder most of the contact in order to protect his upper body.
“It’s just trying to teach him how to create extension and space so guys just can’t latch on to him,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “Utilizing his hands, getting his shoulders and his upper body out of there. That’s just base fundamental teaching for all our guys.
“It’ll save his shoulders. It’ll save his upper body. With the way he played a year ago, sometimes he would get into a position where it would be awkward to go make a tackle. By him being able to create separation and get off blocks properly and clear traffic, he’ll be able to put himself in a better football position to go maker a nice, clean tackle like a linebacker usually does.”
NFL teams were reportedly concerned with the condition of Foster’s shoulders last year before the draft. ESPN’s Adam Schefter quoted a “well-placed source” with knowledge of Foster’s physical condition as saying the surgery on his right shoulder “did not take” and would require additional surgery.
Foster was considered a top-five talent, but the 49ers traded up into the first round to select Foster at No. 31 overall. His physical condition and character concerns likely contributed to his fall. Foster did not require another surgery. But he battled a variety of injuries as a rookie, including an AC joint sprain on the same shoulder during training camp. He still finished with 72 tackles in 10 games and, at times, was the team’s best defensive player.
“He’s working at it, and it’s shown,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I think that’s the hardest thing for all athletes. You do things that make you successful your entire life, then you see there’s different ways to do things and ways that you can change things up to maybe help your career.
“But that just doesn’t happen automatically. We’re trying to get Reuben to use his hands a little bit more, not always fit with his shoulders and stuff. We’re practicing hard out there. He’s mindful of it so you can see him starting to use it. Sometimes he does what he’s always done, but if you practice that way every day then he has a chance in the season to have improved.”
Rookie with the Right Moves
Rookie wide receiver Dante Pettis has gotten off to a good start in training camp. He has the versatility to line up at any of the team’s receiver positions. And quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has also been impressed with Pettis’ variety of moves.
“He moves differently than most guys,” Garoppolo said. “He has some long limbs, long arms, long legs and it helps him create space with defenders. He has a unique ability, I call it wiggle. Whatever you want to call it, though, of just his body moves -- a certain way and he explodes out of the break and separates a foot from a guy. That’s all you need.
“As a quarterback, you love to see that. He’s young, he’s learning, just like all of these young guys are. It’s their first training camp. So, we all have a long way to go. But, he’s working hard every day and it’s good to see that.”
Staley’s High Praise for ‘Best Friend’
The 49ers’ decision to draft right tackle Mike McGlinchey in the first round and send Trent Brown to the New England Patriots has prompted no second-guessing around Santa Clara. It is clear that veteran left tackle Joe Staley is excited about his new teammate. He often jokes that McGlinchey is his “best friend” or “little brother.”
“I just see so much potential in that kid,” said Staley, a six-time Pro Bowl selection. “He has the absolute right mindset to succeed in the NFL. The guy is really, really hungry to learn every single day. He comes in meetings and asks the right questions. He’s really, really smart. He picks up the playbook really well.
“And physically, you see him come into OTAs right when he got here and was doing really, really well. He’s still making mistakes and he’s got a long way to go, but I see all the potential he has. I think he got nothing but great things ahead of him in his career. And I’m excited to be able to have that opportunity to be a mentor to a younger guy and teach him the things I’ve learned and hopefully he can surpass me one day.”
Sherman Working Up to Speed
Cornerback Richard Sherman saw an increase in practice snaps Sunday after getting a veteran rest day on Saturday. It definitely was asking too much for him to run with speedster Marquise Goodwin in a one-on-one drill, and Goodwin created several yards of separation to haul in a deep pass from Sherman. Saleh said the 49ers are looking to bring Sherman gradually back up to speed.
“He missed all of OTAs and had been working with the trainers. Just trying to get his football legs back. He doesn’t have anything to prove. He just has to get back in shape and get his legs back,” Saleh said.
“He looks really good. Sherm will tell you. But his mindset, all of the things that make Sherman great, are all there. It’s just a matter of him just getting his legs back underneath him and all that stuff. He’s doing a good job. He looks good.”
First Day Off
The 49ers have their first day off after four consecutive days of practices. The past two practices have been with full pads. The team returns to the practice field on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.