Foster gets first shot to show what he can do: 'What's great about him...'

Foster gets first shot to show what he can do: 'What's great about him...'

SANTA CLARA – A season-ending injury to a starter might not have the same negative impact when it forces a supremely talented first-round pick into the starting lineup.

But do not try to convince the 49ers’ coaching staff that it will be easy to compensate for the loss of linebacker Malcolm Smith to a season-ending torn pectoral.

“He was unbelievable -- looked like the Super Bowl MVP,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said of Smith, who was, in fact, the MVP of Super Bowl XLVIII while with the Seattle Seahawks.

“I don’t hurt as much for the organization as I do for him and all the hard work he put in this offseason to position himself to have the best year of his career. For that to happen to him when it happened to him, I feel sick for him.”

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster was going to be a starter. It was just a matter of the timing. Now, there is more urgency to get the 31st overall pick ready to go for the Sept. 10 opener against the Carolina Panthers due to Smith's absence. Smith was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday.

“Yeah, I'm ready,” Foster said.

Well, maybe not quite, yet.

Foster has made his mark during the practice sessions with some interceptions. But he has also blown more than a few assignments. The most encouraging part for Saleh is that Foster has been able to quickly correct his mistakes.

“He’s had flash plays and he’s had busts that a common person won’t notice,” Saleh said. “But, at the same time, he’s been asked to learn a lot in a very short amount of time. So, for Reuben, it’s just a matter of getting those reps.

“What’s great about him is that when he sees it once he’s good. So, even if he’s made a mistake he’ll be able to recoup, re-gather himself back up.”

Foster lined up with the 49ers’ first-team defense on Monday. The plan is for veteran Ray-Ray Armstrong to line up at the weakside linebacker position on Tuesday.

Foster figures to be at his best when he is allowed to show all of the traits that prompted the 49ers to rank him as the No. 3 prospect in the draft behind Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas.

Saleh was referring to his entire defensive unit, but he could have been speaking solely about Foster when asked what he was looking forward to seeing on Friday night.

“I can’t wait to see us tackle,” Saleh said. “I can’t wait to see us hit. I can’t wait to see the violence with which we play.”

Foster had to resist the temptation to put a hit on teammate Carlos Hyde on the third play of the day, as the players came face to face in the hole on a running play. The big hits will have to wait until Friday.

--Linebacker Eli Harold is nearing the final stages of completing the concussion protocol. He wore pads and went through non-contact football activity.

--Arik Armstead's deflection at the line of scrimmage of a Brian Hoyer pass led to Dontae Johnson’s interception, which he returned for a touchdown.

--Tank Carradine continues to be the first-team defensive end ahead of Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick. But Thomas appears to be gaining ground. “Solomon is starting to show up,” Saleh said.

--Nose tackle Quinton Dial recorded a sack on a stunt against No. 2 right tackle Garry Gilliam.

--Aaron Lynch returned to work after missing two practices after the premature birth of his son. He batted down passes from Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard at the line of scrimmage.

--Cornerback Rashard Robinson left practice early with an apparent left shoulder injury.

--Coach Kyle Shanahan was not pleased with the way a backed-up period began. After four pre-snap penalties, including two false starts from Trent Brown, Shanahan stopped the action and had the team begin over.

--Running back Raheem Mostert fumbled near the sideline after a big hit from Lorenzo Jerome.

--During a 7-on-7 red zone period, tight end Vance McDonald beat Eric Reid on back-to-back touchdown passes from Hoyer of 6 and 3 yards. McDonald worked mostly with the backups in later 11-on-11 drills.

Still unconvinced there is a place for Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL


Still unconvinced there is a place for Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL

I hadn’t considered the notion of Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles bombing quite so badly Thursday night, so I hadn’t considered the notion advanced by Pro Football Talk Friday morning that Jacksonville might be a great place for Colin Kaepernick.

That’s because I long ago stopped considering the idea that Kaepernick’s exile from football was, or is, about football. It isn’t. He is the example for future player/miscreants, and trotting his name out every time a quarterback in the new NFL vomits up a practice game on national television is simply perpetuating a lie.

Until someone gets so desperate that it isn’t any more.

That’s the problem with being so definitive about Kaepernick’s perpetual ban. It only takes one owner with a willingness to stick a middle finger up to the objections and say, “I own a football team, not some branch of the USO” to end this national spitfest once and for all. And yes, I say owner because this is an owner’s decision, solely and completely. In the hypothetical of Kaepernick the Jaguar, it will be made not by Doug Marrone, who is merely a coach, or by Tom Coughlin, who is only the general manager, but Shahid Khad, one of the brightest and quietly more powerful owners in the league.

But the odds still scream No Kaep For You, because it would mean that exhibition games matter for judgmental purposes (which they don’t), that Bortles is somehow worse than half the quarterbacks in the NFL (he is part of an amorphous blob of non-producers whose numbers are growing as the differences between college and pro football offenses expand), and that owners easily break away from the herd once the herd has decided on something (Khan is not a rebel in the Jerry Jones mold by any means).

In other words, I remain unconvinced that there is a place for Colin Kaepernick in a new and nastier NFL. And he’s probably better off.

Zuttah ends up back with Ravens after release from 49ers


Zuttah ends up back with Ravens after release from 49ers

One week after center Jeremy Zuttah played his way off the 49ers’ roster in short order, he ended up back with the team that got rid of him to open the offseason.

The Baltimore Ravens on Friday announced the signing of Zuttah, whom the 49ers released on Aug. 9 after acquiring him from the Ravens in a March trade.

The 49ers determined center Daniel Kilgore was clearly better than Zuttah. Moreover, Zuttah he did not demonstrate any promise of being an asset at either of the guard positions.

Zuttah, 31, played the past three seasons with the Ravens after six seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Zuttah was named to his first Pro Bowl after last season.

The 49ers originally acquired Zuttah in a swap of sixth-round draft picks. The Ravens received the 49ers’ pick at No. 186 and selected Virginia Tech safety Chuck Clark. The 49ers took over Baltimore’s selection at No. 198 and chose Mississippi defensive tackle D.J. Jones.

The 49ers are confident in Kilgore and offensive tackles Joe Staley and Trent Brown. However, there is concern at the guard positions.

Brandon Fusco appears to be earning the confidence of the coaching staff at right guard. But left guard remains a concern. Zane Beadles is currently the starter while Joshua Garnett rehabs from arthroscopic knee surgery to repair cartilage. The 49ers are hopeful Garnett will be available for the opening of the regular season.