Linebacker Reuben Foster wants to get his hands on a ballcarrier on Sunday like a child wants … well, let’s let Foster explain it.
“I hope the doctors officially clear me,” he said Thursday. “Hopefully they see that child in me that wants some candy. I want some candy. Let me have some candy.”
The 49ers first-round draft pick suffered a high ankle sprain early in San Francisco’s Week 1 loss to the Carolina Panthers and returned to practice this week. He was eased into Wednesday’s session and did a little more on Thursday.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said the rookie looked “sharp” in his first day back.
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“He lined up, got people lined up,” Saleh said. “It was really cool to see because he hasn’t actually taken a live rep since he got hurt. To see the way he commanded the huddle and the way he got people lined up, it was very encouraging.”
Saleh said a decision on Foster’s availability for Sunday against Washington won’t be made until the end of the week. When he does return, however, Foster will continue to play weak-side linebacker, the spot Ray-Ray Armstrong has played the last four weeks, and his reintroduction into the lineup will have no bearing on NaVorro Bowman’s snap count.
That became an issue on Sunday when a backup linebacker went into the game to give Bowman rest. Bowman, who had played 83 snaps a week earlier, said he was unhappy about being on the sideline and Saleh said he didn’t expect him to be.
“I would expect Bowman to be the most angry human being in the entire world,” Saleh said. “I would expect nothing else. I would expect him to fight tooth and nail to come off the field and I would expect him to fight tooth and nail to get back on the field. That’s why Bowman is a special football player. That’s why he’s been fantastic his entire career.”
Still, Bowman’s frame of mind won’t change the plan to give him periodic rests. especially during grueling games. The 49ers have played more defensive snaps than any other team and Bowman leads all NFL linebackers in defensive snaps this season with 353.
“It’s like we talked about with the D-line,” Saleh said. “They’re playing a lot of snaps. We’re doing everything we can as a staff to make sure that those guys are fresh so they’re there and available for crunch time, so in overtime or four-minute drive or a two-minute, we’ve got all gas and we’re ready to execute the way we need to execute.”
Et cetera – Kyle Juszczyk (back) missed his second straight practice of the week. He’s the only fullback on the 49ers’ roster. If he can’t play Sunday, a tight end likely would fill that role. Juszczyk was the only 49er who did not practice.
▪ Players said they were unaffected by the air quality during Wednesday’s smokey practice. Smoke from the fires raging 100 miles to the north impacted both the 49ers and Raiders on Wednesday. A more westerly wind improved air quality greatly in Santa Clara on Thursday.
▪ Safety Jimmie Ward (shoulder) was one of nine players who was limited in Thursday’s practice. He was wearing a blue, no-contact jersey. Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (concussion) and tight end George Kittle (chest) also were in blue.