San Francisco 49ers

49ers eying healthy Arik Armstead to shoulder load as primary pass rusher

Former 49ers first-round draft pick Arik Armstead said Wednesday he’s feeling healthy again after having surgery on a shoulder issue that’s bothered him since his playing days at Pleasant Grove High School.

Armstead said he’s dealt with a torn labrum for years and that his left shoulder would routinely pop out of joint. That happened in last year’s training camp and throughout the early part of the season. He went on injured reserve following the 49ers’ Nov. 6 loss to the New Orleans Saints and had surgery shortly thereafter.

“There comes a time when you’re trying to play through an injury, but your shoulder keeps popping out in the middle of a game,” Armstead said. “It’s like, ‘What are you going to do?’ You’ve got to fix it.”

Armstead is an interesting chess piece for new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh as he implements a 4-3 scheme this year.

The big defensive lineman said he’s been lining up at several positions along the front, most prominently at the so-called “Leo” spot on the right side that is the defense’s primary pass rusher.

Armstead is 6-foot-7 and nearly 300 pounds, far larger than the 255 pounders that have played that role in Seattle, for instance. But he has good movement skills for someone of his stature and his height and long arms might make him a difficult assignment for opposing left tackles.

Armstead did not take part in any of the team sessions of Wednesday’s minicamp because he is still recovering from his procedure. He ostensibly has been lining up at the “Leo” position in walk-through sessions.

If the 49ers are eying Armstead there when the season begins, that might create an opening at left defensive end – in the team’s base defense – for Stanford’s Solomon Thomas, the 49ers’ possible first-round pick according to numerous mock drafts. Tank Carradine has manned that position in the 49ers’ ongoing minicamp.

The 49ers have the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s opening round.

Bowman’s back – Nearly seven months since he tore his left Achilles’ tendon, NaVorro Bowman was a full participant in the team’s practice.

Bowman, 28, lined up as the middle linebacker beside newcomer Malcolm Smith, who is playing weak-side linebacker. Bowman missed all of the 2014 season following a multi-ligament knee injury, then started every game in 2015. Last year he started the first four games before going down with the Achilles tear on Oct. 4 against Dallas.

Without Bowman, the 49ers finished with the worst run defense in the league and the worst in franchise history.

Safety watch – Jimmie Ward is playing free safety during this week’s minicamp while another former first-round pick, Eric Reid, is playing strong safety.

Reid, who played at LSU, said he was rooting for another LSU safety, Jamal Adams, to be taken early in the draft – even if it’s to the 49ers at pick No. 2.

“We’d have three DBs that went to LSU,” he said, noting that Rashard Robinson, a fourth-round pick a year ago, is playing cornerback. Robinson had the best defensive play Wednesday with a leaping interception of a deep pass that was intended for receiver Rashard Ross. Robinson and Dontae Johnson were the team’s first-string cornerbacks.

Standing up in ’17 – Reid said he and outside linebacker Eli Harold, who both knelt during the national anthem last season alongside quarterback Colin Kaepernick, do not plan to do so this year.

“Our goal was open the floor to conversation,” Reid said. “I believe we achieved that goal.”

A free agent this year, Kaepernick remains unsigned. Reid said Kaepernick’s anthem stance in 2016 likely is the reason no team has hired him.

“It’s sad,” Reid said. “(He’s) doing something to better the world. I mean, the guy got a plane sent to Somalia to help with the famine there. He’s been doing things that if it were anybody else in a different situation, without the anthem, they would be praising him and giving him awards for it. So I just think it’s sad that this is the situation. But I’m rooting for him. I’m praying for him.”

Kaepernick has notified teams that he will not protest during the anthem this year.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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