Ladies and gentleman, it’s Reuben time…probably.
The San Francisco 49ers have made it through nine days of training camp, and with linebacker Malcolm Smith going on IR, rookie linebacker and first-round draft pick Reuben Foster is being thrown right into the fire. He got all the first-team reps today next to NaVorro Bowman, but he and Ray-Ray Armstrong are now fighting for the starting spot.
“…[I]t’s still training camp so we’re still in the evaluation process,” said defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. “Reuben got first dibs today with the ones. You’ll see Ray-Ray get some reps with the ones. It really doesn’t mean anything today.”
Whether or not it means anything today, Foster is a special talent who is ready to go. He’s also friendly. Before speaking to the media today, he smiled and shook everyone’s hands. That’s nice.
“I’ve grown a lot,” said Foster. “Of course I’ve been away from football for a while — that’s what I think. Just me growing and just trying to get back into football shape and football mentality. I grew a lot, with the help of my teammates, too. They’ve given me confidence, for sure, and poise.”
For Armstrong’s part, he expects to be considered just as seriously as Foster.
“Obviously, he’s a first-round pick,” said Armstrong. “But I go out and compete every day just like everybody else and then let the coaches make the decision when it’s time.”
Saleh is confident in both men.
“I think they’re both good in the run and pass, to be honest,” said defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. “Maybe I’m being biased as a coach. I think they both have great strengths. We’re so detailed in our run game that I think they’ll both be good in the run. We’re so specific in our coverage that they’ll both be good in coverage. It’s just a matter of who’s, it comes down to production and people making plays and doing things the right way. Fundamentally being sound and performing once these games start.”
Thus far, Foster has had a strong camp, especially considering he missed all of the offseason program while his shoulder healed. So far, he has had three interceptions and a fumble recovery. And he just looks good. He is clearly a fast learner and has a natural instinct for the defense.
“[H]e’s had flash plays and he’s had busts that a common person won’t notice,” said Saleh. “But, at the same time, he’s been asked to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. So, for Reuben it’s just a matter of getting those reps. What’s great about him is that when he sees it once he’s good. So, even if he’s made a mistake he’ll be able to recoup, regather himself back up.”
We’ll see how the week plays out, but something tells me that Foster will be starting on Friday, and he is not throwing away his shot.
“I’ve been going hard trying to fight for a position,” said Foster. “But whoever wins that position wins that position. I’m still going to be right there behind him. Tap your head, I’m coming in to sub you in. I’ll get one play to play for you, and come back in and do your thing and I’m still on the sideline cheering you on. [Malcolm Smith] going down changed my whole mindset, really just trying to be a better teammate, just trying to keep steady and keep learning the film, keep learning my gray areas I need to learn. Just, you never know what could happen. It’s sad, but you never know. It’s just crazy.”
You can get to know both Foster and Armstrong better here with 5 Fun Facts!
Elsewhere on the Practice Field
- Tight end George Kittle and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner were back at practice and participated in team drills. Kittle spent most of his time getting first team reps.
- Dontae Johnson had a pick-6 on a Brian Hoyer pass that was first tipped by Arik Armstead.