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Reuben Foster pushing through injury scares; 49ers will aim to lessen them

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Just about once a game, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster is involved in a big collision that draws oohs and aahs from fans and teammates before that excitement quickly turns to silence as Foster is slow to get up.

Inevitably, Foster will get some medical attention, make his way to the sideline, miss a snap or two and then get back in the game. Those injury scares have become a staple of 49ers games, to the point that coach Kyle Shanahan has joked that he doesn't bother to tend to Foster anymore unless he's certain something serious has happened.

“I think everyone can see Reuben throws his body around, plays very hard," Shanahan said. "That's something you'll have to ask Reuben about. He's already tricked me enough. I told him I'm not coming out there anymore. And then one day I'm going to need to. But, hopefully not. He usually, I think it's pretty serious and then he's back out there a couple plays later. But, I know he plays through a lot of pain. I know he throws his body around. You guys can see how violent he plays. But, he definitely has made me nervous many a time, so I try not to worry too much until he's out longer than a couple plays.”

Foster's latest injury scare came in last week's win against the Jacksonville Jaguars when he suffered a stinger in his shoulder for the second consecutive game. When he did it against Tennessee the previous week, Foster returned to the game without missing much of anything. Last week, Foster did not return, though the Niners held a big lead at the time and Shanahan said he wanted to hold him out for precautionary reasons.

This week, Shanahan said Foster will be limited in practice but also expressed confidence that Foster will be ready to play in Sunday's finale against the Los Angeles Rams. Of more importance, Shanahan said the stingers Foster has been dealing with are unrelated to the shoulder surgery he had before the 2017 NFL draft.

"It's two completely different things," Shanahan said. "He tore a rotator cuff in college, and these are just stingers he's gotten on his shoulders.”

In addition to recent shoulder issues, Foster has been slowed this season by an ankle injury suffered in the season opener that cost him five games and a rib injury that cost him another. Overall, Foster has had some sort of minor ailment require medical attention on the field in each of the past eight games.

Much of that can be attributed to Foster's fearless playing style. He's unafraid to throw himself into any scrum and while it's led to some injury concerns, it's also led to success. He has 67 tackles in nine games and would almost certainly be the team's leading tackler had he been on the field all season.

It's left some to wonder if maybe Foster needs to add some bulk in the offseason to deal with the wear and tear of the season's grind.

“I like where he’s at right now," defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. "He looks fast, he looks fleet of foot. The guy just, I shouldn’t say careless, I mean the guy just wants to kill people. So sometimes he kills himself for a play. I don’t know if he’s 240, 250, I think you’re going to have the same result. He hits the daylights out of people. Every once in a while, he’s going to get something where he might have to take a breather. It’s been a while since I’ve seen someone who hits as hard as he does. I think after a full offseason where he can just build his body instead of having to rehab, eat right and do things the right way, I think he’ll avoid some of those injuries as he gets smarter in the game. I don’t know if bulk is going to help with what he does.”

Still, Shanahan said the Niners will at least take a closer look at Foster's technique, as well as at safety Adrian Colbert's, to see if there are ways they can maintain their edge while also staying at 100 percent for all 16 games.

“It's something we definitely have to look into, especially the amount that it’s happened to both of them," Shanahan said. "That's one of the things that makes them best, how hard that they do hit. But, I think we’re going to have to look into it a lot this season, based off techniques and things like that, if we could not lose what they do so great, but also put them in a better position to stay healthy.”