LB Reuben Foster struggles in year 2 for 49ers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Reuben Foster was one of the few bright spots as a rookie for the San Francisco 49ers, flashing the ability that made him look like a defensive building block for years to come.

After an offseason of legal issues and a two-game suspension to start this season, Foster has been unable to deliver in year two for the 49ers (1-6) and is a contributing factor in the team's defensive struggles.

Foster has been missing tackles and struggling to generate big plays for a San Francisco defense that is tied for the fewest takeaways through seven games in NFL history.

"Reuben is still trying to get back to where he finished last year," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He's not there yet. I think he's had times where he shows it, but his consistency needs to improve and he knows that, I know that. He did miss his second offseason for things that we all know about, which is on Reuben. Then when he got here, knowing he was going to be suspended those first two games, he didn't get as many reps there toward the end and things like that. I think there is a little bit of rust to him, not that that's an excuse. That's what he needs to do to find a way to get that rust off. We haven't yet, but I expect him to as this year goes."

Foster missed more than a month of the offseason program after two arrests that led the 49ers to tell him to stay away from the facility while he dealt with the legal problems. Most of those charges were eventually dropped, with Foster having to complete a first-time offender diversion course on a marijuana charge and being sentenced to two years' probation, 232 hours of community service, and $235 in fines for a weapons charge.

But Foster missed practice time and then was suspended for the first two games of this season. He hasn't looked like the impact linebacker he was as a rookie but his coaches remain confident in his ability.

"He missed the first couple of games of the year and it's not going the way he wants and all that stuff. I do think he's moving in the right direction," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. "He did have his best practice of the year yesterday. He's going to be fine. I get it, in this day and age, with everything needs to happen now. But, I promise you, Reuben is going to be just fine when this is all said and done. Second-year player, to push the panic button is way, way premature in my mind."

Foster has 10 missed tackles in his five games, according to SportRadar, which is tied for the second-most in the league over that span. He also has failed to record a sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery or interception, and has just three tackles for losses.

"I'd say average," Foster said when asked to assess his play. "But it can get a lot better. That's what I'm keying in on, to focus and get better."

Foster's play has been impacted a bit by a sore shoulder that has bothered him the past three weeks. Foster fell in the draft in part because of concerns about his right shoulder that have proved to be an issue early in his career.

He has tried to play through the pain, although it has appeared on video that there are plays where he doesn't have much use of his right arm. Foster said he had an MRI on the shoulder and believes he can keep playing through it and won't need surgery after the season.

"It's on and off," he said. "I'm just still going to fight through it. It's just a shoulder."

NOTES: Richard Sherman said he expects to play this week after missing the last game with a calf injury that he expects will linger all season. ... RB Matt Breida (ankle), DL Solomon Thomas (knee), C Weston Richburg (knee) and WR Pierre Garcon (shoulder, knee) were among the players who didn't practice.

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