There has been a lot of talk over the past three months about the status of Reuben Foster’s shoulder. He tore his rotator cuff and had surgery before the 2017 NFL Combine, and reports leading up to the draft suggesting he would need a second surgery. We’ve heard more reports since, and that has led to some confusion and angst.
On Thursday, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was on KNBR, and was asked about Foster’s shoulder. He said the 49ers doctors do a great job and felt good about Foster’s shoulder leading up to the draft. However, he offered up one response that was misread by some.
“I just look at it as, you go with what your doctors say. And then you always think about, ‘Alright, what about the worst-case scenario? What if this is true?’ The worst-case scenario is, the shoulder doesn’t heal correctly and you got to do it again. When you have to do it again, you gotta get another surgery, so it’d be tough to play this year and you’d end up having him the next year.
Shanahan was offering what the worst case scenario would be if the 49ers doctors are wrong. People reported on it as though he was saying Foster could miss the season. It is certainly not entirely out of the realm of the possible, but that’s not the point he was making.
On Friday, GM John Lynch made an appearance on ESPN’s Mike & Mike program to discuss the draft. He was asked about Foster, and he made his thoughts pretty clear. He said the 49ers doctors have liked how Foster’s torn rotator cuff is recovering. Lynch acknowledged the various reports over the past couple months. He said each time he heard a report, he would go back to the 49ers doctors to check, and he said that each time they remained confident, and did not flinch in their assessment.
No doctor is perfect, and one particularly notable issue arose with the medical staff back in 2015. That fall, Colin Kaepernick suffered a torn labrum that required surgery. Initial reports said that 49ers doctors had initially diagnosed the injury as a partial tear that did not require surgery. Kaepernick got a second opinion, and was told the tear was more significant than that. He had surgery in Colorado, and eventually worked his way back from the injury.
There were conflicting reports about the diagnosis and what it all meant. Trent Baalke said the 49ers doctors and the doctors Kaepernick consulted for a second opinion were in agreement that surgery was needed. It is possible the 49ers doctors agreed on that after the second opinion pointed out a more specific tear, but that is something that remains a public mystery.
Foster has said the medical staff will have him limited in OTAs, and full-go by training camp. He also said if it was his call, he would be full go right now. But with OTAs and the lack of contact, there is no real need to rush anything. Ideally, the 49ers medical staff gets this one right and this is just a minor speed-bump en route to a great career.