While we are still three months out until the start of the NFL season, the most anticipated return to the field is the 31st pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster spent his time leading up to the draft rehabbing his surgically-repaired right shoulder that has kept him out of the contact portion of the team's offseason program.
Although Foster has been highly regarded as an immediate impact player, the 49ers medical staff has remained cautious on his return to play. But that hasn't silenced the anticipation of witnessing Foster terrorizing NFL offenses.
One who can attest to that is linebackers coach Johnny Holland, who is relishing his opportunity to coach a player like Foster.
"I thought Reuben would be a top pick in the draft," Holland said. "I think in the last 10 years, he's probably been one of the best inside linebackers to come out of college football. To have him in our building and to be able to coach a guy like that is valuable for our team."
That's high praise coming from someone who has played with and coached some of the NFL's most elite linebackers. That includes his "protege", defensive quality control coach DeMeco Ryans, who joins the 49ers staff after a 10-year playing career.
Holland indicated that Ryans will be an invaluable asset for Foster.
"He's a guy that has great character. Great football player," Holland said. "(He's) a guy Reuben is going to have his ears wide open listening to. DeMeco just recently left the game, and this is not new to him. So, Reuben sits by him every day and asks him questions."
View the top images from Friday as the 49ers took the field for the sixth day of organized team activities.
Though there is no set timeline for his return just yet, that doesn't mean Foster is getting behind from a mental standpoint. You can catch No. 56 on the sidelines during OTAs shadowing his fellow linebackers during each rep.
"He's on the field doing whatever he can," Holland said on Foster. "This probably one of the hardest things he's been through as far as being in the meeting rooms but not being able to apply it in practice every day. But he's beside me almost every day in practice and getting the calls and putting himself in those situations."
Those mental reps give Foster familiarity with the playbook. It's just a matter of time before Coach Holland can watch all of Foster's hard work pay dividends as a full-participant on the practice field.
"He's on schedule it looks like. He's working hard in the meeting room after practice running and doing our drill work with no problem," Holland added. "We're not going to rush him. We're going to make sure he's healthy and ready to go. He should hit the ground running and not miss a beat."
Awaiting Foster's return, his potential will continue to intrigue those who have seen his highlight reel at Alabama. However, unlike other 31 NFL clubs, the 49ers are anxiously awaiting Foster's debut.