Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is good. He's really good. In fact, he is Pro Football Focus' highest-graded player on the San Francisco 49ers roster and the fourth-highest graded linebacker in the NFL. Only Bobby Wagoner (Seattle), Lavonte David (Tampa Bay), and Luke Kuechly (Carolina) grade higher.

Still, health concerns are surrounding Foster. He seems to leave each game with some sort of injury. Foster has already missed six games this season, which will likely hurt his chances of being named Defensive Rookie of the Year.

"At the end of the day, it's football," Foster told reporters on Thursday. "You can't control when somebody gets hurt. All you can control is their stats and what they end up at."


Because Foster was recovering from rotator cuff surgery following his final season at Alabama, he was not able to practice with his new 49ers teammates until the start of training camp. The coaching staff hopes a full offseason will lessen the linebacker's injuries next season.

"Since he came back from the broken rib he hasn't missed any games," head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday. "He has gotten banged up each week and the way he plays and the position he plays, I know that's going to be a part of his whole career.

"How it has been so far just playing in college and stuff, that goes with playing that position and how he plays it. I think as Reuben gets older, takes care of his body week around and in the offseason too, I think it'll be nicer going into this offseason where he can come to OTAs and training camp much more prepared instead of trying to recover from a surgery."

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes, with proper coaching, Foster can become an even more violent hitter while lessening his chances of injuries.

"I think he can be even more explosive and more violent when he hits with proper technique," Saleh explained on Thursday. "When he learns to run his feet through contact, he's going to destroy people without hurting himself. And 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 contact with his shoulder through the sternum or shoulder through the thigh, I mean, those hits will just be -- what's already explosive -- 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 will be even more explosive."

Saleh went on to explain that he believes Foster has plenty of control while tackling but the fact that he leaves his feet forces the linebacker to lose the power and acceleration that was built up to reach the contact point.



* Reuben Foster video courtesy of Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group