© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA — Reuben Foster is back.
Many 49ers fans thought they’d never read those four words considering the tumultuous summer Foster endured, as he waited out a domestic violence case and separate marijuana charge. He was exonerated in late May, then later suspended for the first two games of the 2018 season for violating the NFL’s policies on personal conduct and substance abuse.
Those two weeks are over. Foster practiced Wednesday for the first time since the beginning of the regular season. In order to make room for Foster on the 53-man roster, the 49ers released offensive lineman Matt Tobin.
“Reuben’s one of our best players,” Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “I think he plays the position very well. Everyone knows how good of a tackler he is. But, he’s also good in coverage. He can blitz the quarterback. He can do a lot of things. Just having his presence out there, just from a leadership standpoint, guys gravitate to him. We really enjoy having him around.”
The 49ers linebackers room had shrunk in recent weeks. Malcolm Smith (hamstring) still hasn’t played a regular season game with the 49ers since they acquired him prior to the 2017 season. In Week 1, Brock Coyle suffered a concussion and broken bone in his back, which is expected to sideline him for at least five more weeks.
The 49ers have had to rely on rookie Fred Warner and second-year linebacker Elijah Lee in their absences. Warner has been superb in both pass and run situations thus far, and ranks third in the NFL with 22 tackles. Lee has produced a mixed bag, leading the 49ers in tackles in Week 2 but missing a couple more that allowed Detroit’s drives to linger.
Missed tackles have been one of the 49ers defense’s glaring issues. They now have their best tackler back.
Foster finished second on the team last year with 72 tackles. He won the NFL Defensive Player of the Month award in November, despite playing in just three games, after recording 30 tackles in that span.
“He seems great mentally,” Shanahan said. “I’ll find out physically. He’s been away two weeks, but I’m pretty optimistic he’s going to be all right physically.”
Foster’s return comes at the perfect time, with the 49ers traveling to Kansas City to face the most prolific offense in the league, featuring first-team All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce. Foster may not solve all of San Francisco’s defensive issues, but he will certainly help in middle-of-the-field coverage. His sideline-to-sideline speed can only help contain Kansas City’s blistering playmakers, including Tyreek Hill, De’Anthony Thomas, Sammy Watkins, and Kelce.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown for an NFL-record 10 touchdowns in two games this year. Kansas City’s offense, averaging a league-leading 40 points through two weeks, has shown few weaknesses.
The Chiefs are plenty aware of Foster’s return.
“(Foster is) a heck of a football player,” Kansas City head coach Andy Reid said via conference call Wednesday. “He flies around and makes plays. We are going to be aware of where he’s at.”
Marquise Goodwin limited in practice
Marquise Goodwin injured his quad in the second quarter of San Francisco’s season-opening 24-16 loss at Minnesota. Goodwin was later diagnosed with a bruised thigh. He did not play in Week 2.
His prospects for Week 3 are still up in the air, but he took a positive step Wednesday, practicing in limited capacity.
Goodwin worked on the side with strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright during the first portion of practice. Once the team broke off into individual drills, Goodwin joined the receivers and ran routes. He looked smooth and relatively unhindered, but he was not going full speed.
Tyreek Hill trash talk continues
On Wednesday morning, Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill said “there’s only one cheetah in the league” when asked about 49ers running back Matt Breida, who goes by ‘Breida the Cheetah.’ Hill, one of the NFL’s rising stars, ran a 4.24 40-yard at his Pro Day, .14 seconds faster than Breida’s 4.38.
Goodwin, at his locker Wednesday, was asked who is faster: him or Hill. The 49ers receiver promptly rolled up his sleeve to show his arm tattoo of the 2012 Olympics.
Goodwin finished in 10th place at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the long jump. He was also a two-time NCAA champion in the event with the University of Texas.
“I don’t compare myself with anybody,” Goodwin told reporters. “I’ll let you interpret that however you want.”
Joshua Garnett (toe), Joe Staley (veteran day), and Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday.
Those who were limited are: Goodwin (quadriceps), Mike Person (foot), and Ahkello Witherspoon (ankle).