San Francisco 49ers

49ers notes: Reuben Foster starts in NFL debut, quickly makes presence felt

Reuben Foster nearly carried his string of interceptions into his first NFL game.

The 49ers rookie, who had no interceptions in three seasons at Alabama, has been prolific in that regard during training camp and nearly had a takeaway early in Friday’s preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Foster started at weak-side linebacker ahead of Ray-Ray Armstrong, who has been alternating with Foster in practice.

On the Chiefs’ first drive, quarterback Alex Smith looked for tight end Demetrius Harris in the middle of the end zone. Foster broke in front of Harris and nearly came down with the ball.

On the next play, Foster and fellow inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman stood up running back Spencer Ware at the 2-yard line after he slipped a tackle attempt by cornerback Rashard Robinson.

Foster, who has been dealing with a sprained ankle in practice, remained in the game when the second-team defense took the field in the first quarter. At that point he switched to middle linebacker while Armstrong lined up at the weak-side position.

The only other 49ers rookie to start Friday was undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome, who started at free safety because Jimmie Ward (hamstring) and Jaquiski Tartt (rib) were injured.

Team captains – Earlier in the week, Kyle Shanahan said he nearly forgot one of the duties that come with being head coach – naming the team captains for the upcoming game.

Shanahan ultimately went with two easy choices: tackle Joe Staley represented the offense, Bowman the defense. The third was more interesting.

Receiver Aaron Burbridge, a gunner on punt returns, was the special teams captain. Burbridge, a sixth-round pick a year ago who had a quiet rookie season on offense, is one of several pass catchers in the mix for perhaps the last receiving spot on the team’s 53-man roster. His special teams ability may give him an edge.

Burbridge left the game with a hamstring injury.

Brock says he’s innocent – Tramaine Brock, whom the 49ers cut in April, said in a statement Friday that “I have never put my hands on the mother of my children” and that he “looks forward to continuing my football career.”

On Tuesday the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office dropped its domestic violence case against Brock because the alleged victim, Brock’s ex-girlfriend, was uncooperative. The district attorney’s office in June accused Brock of punching the woman in the face and attempting to strangle her on different occasions. The alleged incident left visible marks on the woman’s neck, according to the initial police report.

Brock spent the last two seasons as the 49ers’ starting cornerback. Shanahan, however, said the team has no interest in re-signing him.

Et cetera – Cornerback Dontae Johnson (concussion) did not travel to Kansas City. Keith Reaser and Rashard Robinson started the game. Guard Joshua Garnett (knee), tight end George Kittle (hamstring), linebacker Brock Coyle (rib) and linebacker Donavin Newson (concussion) did not play.

▪ DeForest Buckner left the game with an ankle injury, the same one he sprained early in camp. He was on his feet throughout the game and the injury does not seem severe. Defensive end Ronald Blair suffered a groin injury in the second half and had to leave the game.

▪ The NFL on Friday announced that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is suspended for the first six games of the season, which includes the Oct. 22 contest against the 49ers in Santa Clara. Elliott was suspended after what the NFL said were “multiple instances of physical violence” against a former girlfriend.

▪ Smith had a long, pregame chat with former teammate Staley, 49ers general manager John Lynch and Chiefs tight end Gavin Escobar. The group has a San Diego connection. Smith and Lynch are from San Diego; Escobar played at San Diego State; Staley makes his offseason home there.

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

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