SANTA CLARA – Rejecting individual awards for team success has long been an athletic tradition, but not for 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster. While, he’s certainly a team player, he also wants individual recognition.
Asked if he would like to win Defensive Rookie of the Year this season, Foster said, “I want it, I need it, give it to me.”
However, it’s unlikely to happen. Foster missed six games mainly with an ankle injury to start the season. He has since battled through rib soreness and shoulder stingers. The missed time likely means the award will probably got to Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has played in 12 games and has intercepted five passes for 85 return yards.
The challenge for Foster will be staying on the field long term, which is something he will concentrate on this off-season.
He came into the season with questions about his shoulder, which caused many teams to take him off their draft boards. Since then, he sustained the shoulder stingers, which is a stretch of the nerves in the neck and shoulder areas.
“It’s going to be hard to change my style of play,” Foster said. “It’s going to be about my shoulder strength. (I need) to really dial in to my shoulder maintenance. Find a way to play aggressive and not hurt myself.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said using proper technique will be essential for Foster. Sometimes he leaves his feet too early and leaves himself vulnerable.
“It’s just when you leave your feet you’re losing all your power, you’re losing all that acceleration that you built up to get to that contact point,” said Saleh, who believes Foster can hit even harder and yet still protect himself with the right coaching.
“It’s the whole trying to get and understand what it feels like to accelerate through contact and what he needs to get done from a technique standpoint to get even more explosive,” said Saleh.
If Foster does that, staying on the field and making an even bigger impact will mean even more awards will come his way.