Reuben Foster said that rejoining his teammates on Monday felt "like a holiday." The San Francisco 49ers second-year linebacker has been in meetings, but he's had to be absent from practices and games while serving his two-game suspension.
His return couldn't be timelier as the 49ers prepare for the Kansas City Chiefs and their top-ranked offense in Week 3.
"Reuben's one of our best players," Kyle Shanahan said. "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."
Added defensive coordinator Robert Saleh: "He's got fresh legs. He looks fast. So, we're excited to have him back. (I) love his energy."
Foster shared that he's been watching film of the Chiefs since the start of the season. He's also watched San Francisco's first two games from his couch at home.
"I was like a true fan cheering on my brothers," the linebacker said.
Now he's back in the fold and is likely to start at WILL linebacker on Sunday. That's the same spot he played for a majority of his rookie season while Brock Coyle was at MIKE linebacker. Foster racked up a team-high 72 tackles in just 10 games and was named the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Month in November.
He'll have a new running mate in rookie Fred Warner, who has started at MIKE linebacker to open the season.
"I see a dog in Fred – a real mature man who is about his business," Foster said of his rookie counterpart. "I salute him for that. I'm proud of him for stepping up and taking control of the defense."
The tandem of Foster and Warner has the potential to be a special one. Each linebacker possesses elite size and athleticism with a football IQ to match. Richard Sherman wasn't shy about his excitement to see them play together.
Sherman is never one to give false praise, which is why his analysis of San Francisco's middle linebackers is so notable.
"They have a ton (of potential)," Sherman said. "They're both instinctual. They trust what they see. That's a big part of this game – being able to play fast and seeing something and being able to react to what you see. There are a lot of guys who can be smart on paper and see it in film and say, 'Man, this is the answer or that's the answer.' Translating it to the field can be difficult for a lot of guys, and those two do it as well as anybody."
As Shanahan astutely pointed out on Wednesday, the 49ers will be playing a loaded Chiefs offense. That makes it essential to be at full strength. Foster is the caliber of player that can elevate an entire defense, and there's no overstating what his return means to the 49ers. San Francisco hopes that will be the case against Patrick Mahomes and Co. on Sunday.