Reuben Foster's talent on the football field is undeniable. The San Francisco 49ers' second-year linebacker was impressive in his 10 starts last season and looks like a force to be reckoned with this offseason.

"Reuben Foster simply has a different gear than everyone else," wrote 49ers senior reporter Joe Fann following Friday's practice. "There have been multiple short completions over the first two practices that would have resulted in massive hits from Foster. It's really fun to watch him sprint sideline to sideline."

Now, Foster just needs to stay on the football field. He will miss the first two games of the regular season due to a league-issued suspension. After that, the 49ers defense will depend on him to deliver punishing blows.

But maybe not too punishing.

Foster missed six full games last season due to injuries, and it seemed like he was getting nicked up in the games in which he did play. Much of that has been attributed to his reckless mentality while delivering hits that wow spectators.


The 49ers want Foster to limit the damage he does to himself while remaining a dominant force on defense. That means a change to his style of play. The coaches are trying to improve Foster's technique, which will enable him to remain on the field.

"He's working at [improving his technique]," Shanahan said on Saturday. "It's showing. I think that's the hardest thing for all athletes. You do things that make you successful your entire life; then you see there are different ways to do things. Ways that you can change things up to maybe help your career. But that just doesn't happen automatically.

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"You can say all you want. That's why you have to have a physical practice. We're trying to get Reuben to use his hands a little bit more, not always hit 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. If you don't have a physical camp, you never put pads on, you can talk all you want. But you're not just thinking about it; this is muscle memory and how your body reacts in the heat of battle.

"So these are situations we're trying to put him in as much as we can, and Reuben's very mindful of it so you can see him using it. The more he does it each day, he'll develop some better habits."

Foster compiled an impressive 72 combined tackles in just 10 games during his rookie campaign. A big season out of the young linebacker could mean an even bigger jump for the 49ers defense.