By Sam McPherson
The San Francisco 49ers were dead last in the NFL on defense last season, but in Week 1 at home against the 2015 NFL MVP and his Carolina Panthers offense, the 49ers held their own despite the 23-3 loss. Quarterback Cam Newton was able to lead his offense to just 287 total yards, as the rebuilt San Francisco defense demonstrated it would not be the easy pushover it was in 2016.
Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster contributed that effort at Levi’s Stadium last Sunday, making three tackles after being drafted with the 31st overall pick last spring and defending one pass play successfully. Foster was a unanimous All-American selection last year at the University of Alabama and the 2016 Butkus Award winner as the best collegiate linebacker, and the 49ers were thrilled to get him in the 2017 NFL Draft. Now, they may be without him for awhile.
High-ankle sprains take time to heal
Foster’s injury is the worst kind for its body part, really. Depending on the severity of the sprain, sometimes recovery can take six months for the average person. The S.F. organization and its medical staff haven’t commented fully on the situation yet, but the team expects him to miss several games and has signed a replacement at the position (Elijah Lee).
Right now, there is no firm estimation for Foster’s recovery from the sprain. He was not able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and he isn’t expected to play this Sunday in Seattle against the Seahawks, which is a big blow to the San Francisco defense. The 49ers haven’t beaten the Seahawks since December 2013, and overall, Seattle has won nine of the last 10 meetings between the two teams.
Rest of the S.F. roster relatively healthy
Only three other players are listed on the official injury report this week: Tight end George Kittle (calf, hamstring), tackle Joe Staley (non-football situation) and safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring). The first two players were full participants on Thursday in practice, which bodes well for their availability on Sunday in Seattle. Meanwhile, Ward was limited in workouts on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Week 1’s game at home.
Kittle overcame an injury last week that had him doubtful for the game just two days before, and he ended up catching five passes against the Panthers. As the team’s top tight end now, the 49ers were glad to see him fully participate in workouts on Thursday. Staley definitely will play on Sunday, and Ward should be ready to play against the Seahawks.
Cornerback Richard Sherman banged up for Seattle
He’s been a thorn in the side of the 49ers for a long time now, but the Seahawks defensive leader hasn’t been able to practice this week due to his own hamstring problem. However, it would be very surprising if Sherman didn’t play against the 49ers. But Seattle also has five other defensive players listed as questionable for the game, including LBs Michael Wilhoite (calf) and K.J. Wright (ankle). The Seahawks lost, 16-9, in Green Bay last week, and they haven’t lost at home to San Francisco since the 2011 season.
(TE) George Kittle (Calf, Hamstring) — Full Participation in Practice
(S) Jimmie Ward (Hamstring) — Limited Participation in Practice
(LB) Reuben Foster (Ankle) — Did Not Participate In Practice