San Francisco 49ers

‘Guys gravitate to him’: Reuben Foster returns to 49ers following suspension

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) dives in front of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster (56) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) dives in front of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster (56) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. AP

Reuben Foster couldn’t wait to get on the practice field.

To start Wednesday’s session, Foster volunteered to mimic a gunner during a special-teams drill, which is often a role reserved for practice-squad players or others low on the depth chart. Foster lined up opposite second-year quarterback Nick Mullens and danced to the music playing over the loud speakers throughout the entire drill.

San Francisco’s talented second-year linebacker was officially activated Wednesday following his two-game suspension. Foster’s tumultuous offseason had his career in doubt. He hadn’t practiced with the team since before the preseason finale in August.

Foster was suspended by the league for violating the personal conduct and substance abuse policies. He’s expected to start Sunday against the high-flying Chiefs (2-0), who are averaging 40 points over their first two games behind standout quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

There’s been an obvious void in the middle of the defense during the 49ers’ 1-1 start with Foster out following his impressive rookie campaign.

“Reuben’s one of our best players,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I think he plays the position very well. Everyone knows how good of a tackler he is. He’s also good in coverage. He can blitz the quarterback, he can do a lot of things. Just having his presence out there, from a leadership standpoint, guys gravitate to him. We really enjoy having him around.”

“He’s a heck of a football player,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said during a conference call. “And he flies around and makes plays. So we’re going to be aware of where he’s at and do our best to do well against him.”

Foster, 24, was named to the Pro Football Writer’s Association’s All-Rookie team in 2017 despite missing six games with ankle and rib injuries. He finished second on the 49ers with 73 combined tackles and ranked as Pro Football Focus’ fourth-highest graded linebacker in the NFL.

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He was arrested in January for marijuana possession in Alabama, and in February on domestic violence allegations, which were later recanted in court by his ex-girlfriend, and possession of an assault weapon.

Police found a loaded assault rifle on his bathroom floor during the February incident in Los Gatos, and he pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge. The domestic violence charges were dropped in Santa Clara Superior Court following the alleged victim’s testimony when she said the initial charges were based on lies.

All signs are pointing to Foster starting alongside rookie third-round pick Fred Warner, who enters the weekend second in the NFL with 26 combined tackles. But Shanahan wouldn’t say who will start in Kansas City, noting the 49ers are getting back veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith in practice after he dealt with a preseason hamstring strain.

“If I knew what way we were going to go this week, I wouldn’t tell you guys,” Shanahan said. “But I do I mean I don’t know yet. We got Reuben who hasn’t been here in two weeks, today’s going to be Malcolm’s first day of full practice. So we want to see how all those guys do. But it’ll be a tough decision at the end of the week, but a tough decision I’m going to be happy to have to make.”

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