There's a ton happening with San Francisco 49ers right now. Veterans are continuing the offseason program. A new crop of first-year players is set to begin rookie minicamp this weekend.
That's why now is the perfect time to start a new weekly segment on 49ers.com where I take some of your questions and do my best to answer them. Let's see what we've got this week.
This one is important to take on first. Adam Schefter created quite a stir yesterday when he reported that some teams did not medically clear Reuben Foster's shoulder. Additionally, sources told ESPN that Foster would need another surgery. That's big news from one of the industry's most respected names, so the worry is understandable.
To answer your question quickly, Zay, yes, I do think Foster plays as a rookie, and no, I don't believe the 49ers are withholding information regarding the injury. I'll add this important caveat. "I know what I don't know," as John Lynch famously said upon being hired as 49ers GM. Those are great words to live by. I am by no means a medical professional and have no credentials to pretend that I understand what's going on with Foster's shoulder.
However, San Francisco's head physician Timothy McAdams and vice president of medical services Jeff Ferguson are more than qualified to discuss the matter. The 49ers wouldn't have drafted Foster if those two hadn't cleared him. In Peter King's MMQB access piece, Ferguson famously said, "what shoulder" when asked about the subject on Draft Day. I'll trust the guy willing to publicly stand by his evaluation over the random source from an unnamed team, talking to Schefter six days after the first round. This is an "only time will tell" scenario, but it's far too soon to panic on Foster.
Here's how Kyle Shanahan described the situation this morning on KNBR:
"Our doctors do a great job," the head coach began. "They looked into everything with Reuben. Our doctors felt good about his shoulder. They thought it was recovering well, and they didn't have the same report that a lot of other teams did. You don't know who's going to end up being right. Everyone is trying to do their best to figure it out, but no one can tell the future. You go with what your doctors say, and then figure out the worst case scenario.
"The worst case scenario is that it doesn't heal right, and you have to (have surgery) again. That would be something where it would be tough to play this year, but we'd have him next year. It's not something that will hurt him long-term."
It's hard to use the word "underrated" in regards to any part of a team coming off of a 2-14 season. That said, there should be reasons for cautious optimism in 2017. San Francisco has invested heavy draft capital on defense (six first round picks since 2013, to be exact). Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas and Foster represent a young nucleus that will hopefully make a collective step forward this season. NaVorro Bowman is getting back to full health. So too is Ray-Ray Armstrong. Malcolm Smith is reunited with defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. Some pieces are in place, but the group will have to do it on Sundays before you see national buy-in.
The LEO position has been the most talked about defensive storyline since it was announced that the 49ers will transition into a 4-3 defense in 2017. The team's top pass-rusher will be largely responsible for improving a defense than ranked 19th in sacks a year ago. Armstead will be a candidate, as Lynch and Shanahan have said. He's not the prototype for the position, though, which would be a Von Miller-type. Armstead was drafted as the perfect 3-4 defensive end, and so his best fit could be inside. He will have opportunities in training camp at multiple spots along the defensive line.
Aaron Lynch, Eli Harold, Ahmad Brooks and Dekoda Watson are others on the roster who will get a shot at being the team's primary LEO. Sixth round pick Pita Taumoepenu out of Utah may also work his way into the mix.
I think this is fascinating. Lynch joined Twitter the same day San Francisco added a "haul" of free agents. He's since played an active role in connecting with the 49ers fan base. I'm not sure why he did it (although I'd be curious to ask), but I'd argue it helps fans feel closer to the team than ever. That's why it's nothing but positive in my eyes. Lynch's transparency has been refreshing, and the reality is that most of the information he shares is nebulous. He's smarter than to reveal anything that could hurt the team on social media.
Thanks to all who participated! I'm looking forward to next week.