49ers linebacker Reuben Foster returned to the team a week ago, after learning that he wouldn’t stand trial on two counts of felony domestic violence. But the team has not yet allowed him to practice, for reasons unrelated to the off-field entanglements.
“He’s in great shape,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh told reporters after Wednesday’s OTA session. “He could have [practiced] today. He could have went the first day he was allowed back. But, just like all the other guys, they’ve had a due process of Phase One, Phase Two, going through the different phases of the offseason. So, we’re just giving him a chance to get back into it. Don’t rush him. There’s no need. Hopefully we can get him back to practicing soon.”
Last year, Foster didn’t participate in the offseason program due to a lingering shoulder issue.
“[I]f he gets one snap of practice it’ll be more than what he got a year ago,” Saleh said. “So we’re excited he’s here. We’re excited that he’s working. We’re excited that he’s in meetings. He’s excited. The guys, his teammates are excited. Getting him up to speed won’t take as long and I promise you, when he gets out there, he’s going to be like a fireball. That’ll be cool to see.”
Saleh said that he had no contact with Foster during his absence, which means that Foster is getting up to speed not only physically but also mentally. For a guy who at one point seemed to be destined for a lengthy suspension at best and termination of employment at worst, it’s a huge development both for him and for the team that he’s able to play at all.
“We’re all excited,” Saleh said. “The whole organization matches his enthusiasm, and that’s not just because of Reuben the player, but Reuben the person. For people who don’t know him, and who don’t have the privilege to know him, really don’t understand what a great human being he actually is.”
Some would possibly hesitate to paint Foster with such a broad brush of positivity, at least for now. Off-field concerns helped fuel his draft-day slide in April 2017, and even though he ultimately was exonerated, the 49ers are still keeping a closer eye on Foster than they would on a player without his specific history.
But he’s back and participating and it’s a lot more than most would have expected based on the allegations he was facing. The 49ers stood by him (primarily because of his perceived value as a player; if he was a scrub he surely would have been cut), and soon the 49ers will reap the benefits of his ongoing presence.