Struggling 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster plays through shoulder pain


SANTA CLARA – Before heading out to practice on Thursday, 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster stood at his locker and slid a compression sleeve over his ailing right shoulder.

Foster entered the NFL last year as a first-round draft pick with questions about his health. His shoulder has certainly been an issue this season. But Foster said a recent MRI examination checked out fine. He has no plan to step away for a full recovery, and he said there is no plan for offseason surgery.

“All I can really do is fight for my team and fight for myself,” Foster said on Thursday. “This is a game that I love and I’m not going to let a shoulder hold me back. I’ll listen to the coaches and listen to the trainers and see what I need to do to maintain my body and do what’s best for the team.”

Foster served a two-game NFL suspension to open the season. Once he returned to the playing field, he did not provide the 49ers with the expected play-making in the middle of the defense.

Foster is second in the NFL in missed tackles with 12, according to Pro Football Focus. In pass coverage, Foster has given up 20 completions on 27 targets for 228 yards and two touchdowns.

“He’s going through some stuff, obviously,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “But it’s not going to stop him from playing. He’s a fighter. He wants to be great. It’s very, very important to him.

“So whatever ailment he may have it’s not going to stop him from being on the football field. It might trigger here and there, but he’s not coming off (the field). It’s something he’s just going to have to deal with.”

Although Saleh said there are times he would prefer that Foster take a break when his shoulder is aching, he believes he is getting better. Saleh said Foster on Wednesday had his best practice in a while.

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman and defensive lineman DeForest Buckner have spoken to Foster to keep his spirits up through his struggles.

“Don’t think you’re going to solve every problem in one fell swoop,” Sherman said. “Take it one step at a time, one game at a time. Get better and stack them up.

“He’s working to get healthy, too. His health isn’t necessarily where he wants it. He’s working to get better every week. That’s just part of this game. It’s a rough game. And it’s obviously been a rough game on our team, specifically.”

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