Linebacker Malcolm Smith missed all of last season — his first with the San Francisco 49ers — with a torn pectoral muscle suffered in training camp. He is eager to get back onto the football field and play in front of the Levi's Stadium crowd for the first time. Smith's first opportunity should come on Thursday during the 49ers' exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

"I think it's going to be really important for me to get out there and get a feel for the game, just being in the stadium," Smith told reporters after Monday's practice. "I haven't played in the stadium so that will be exciting."

While Smith worked last offseason to earn a role next to linebacker NaVorro Bowman, now he has his eyes set on pairing with up-and-coming second-year player Reuben Foster – at least once Foster returns from his two-game suspension to start the season.

"Reuben is awesome," Smith said. "He's done a great job of just building on last season and the stuff he's learned, just being able to communicate and execute, being physically ready to go. It's just great to always see him in the game. Watching last year, I got to see him, and now to be with him, it's going to be a race to the ball."

The 49ers are working with Foster to improve his technique on the football field to, hopefully, reduce his in-season injuries. His physical style of play is believed to have contributed to the six games he missed during his rookie campaign.

"I think it's just a little more attention to how he's doing things, the details, and a small tweak of the body part here and there," Smith said. "So it's not a ton of changes for him but, obviously, he brings it from his shoulders to his toes, so I don't think he'll have an issue."