- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 29, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) - Reuben Foster took little time at all in what was likely his final preseason game to show once again why the San Francisco 49ers were so happy to draft him in April.

Minnesota rookie running back Dalvin Cook took a swing pass from Sam Bradford and was immediately met by Foster , who read the play perfectly and flattened Cook for a 5-yard loss that set the tone Sunday for San Francisco.

“The first play was real neat,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “That’s usually the one I see the best is the first play of the game.”

The 49ers have liked everything they’ve seen so far this summer from Foster, who has justified their decision to trade back into the first round to take the former Alabama star linebacker with the 31st overall pick.

San Francisco general manager John Lynch said the team had graded Foster as the third best player overall in the draft and were quite pleased when he slid almost out of the first round because of concerns about his surgically repaired shoulder and questions about his character.

The shoulder injury kept Foster on the sideline during the offseason program but he has more than made up for it since the start of training camp. He moved into the starting lineup when free-agent acquisition Malcolm Smith went down early in camp with a torn pectoral muscle and is showing signs of being a mainstay at linebacker for years in San Francisco.

That was extremely evident in Sunday night’s game in Minnesota when Foster and strong safety Eric Reid roamed the middle of the field and dealt out some big hits.

“I was feeding off my boy,” Foster said. “Seeing him get a big hit made me want to go more. I wanted to go hard.”

Foster played every snap of the first half and finished with a team-high eight tackles as he has proven that the time missed in the spring isn’t holding him back heading into the season.

“I did have a lot of worries about it, knowing it would take some time,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s ahead of schedule. He’s a very smart person. He works at it. He loves football. He gets a lot out of the meetings, gets even more obviously out of practice and games. He is further along than I anticipated in terms of the X’s and O’s part. I think last night was the first time we all saw him really cut it loose.”

Foster has played so well for San Francisco that he even stayed on the field when the Niners went into six defensive back sets on Sunday with star NaVorro Bowman heading to the bench.

Foster has leaned heavily on Bowman, who has been named to the All-Pro team four times since entering the league in 2010.

“He’s definitely all ears, all eyes just trying to understand what offenses are trying to do to us in certain coverages,” Bowman said. “He’s a bright kid when it comes to football.”

NOTES: LT Joe Staley left Sunday’s game with tendinitis in his knee but should be ready to play the opener. … Shanahan said the team could cut some players who aren’t expected to play in the game and aren’t in the running to make the 53-man roster.

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More AP NFL: pro32.ap.org and twitter.com/AP_NFL

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