The San Francisco 49ers announced their PUP and NFI moves to open training camp, and linebacker Malcolm Smith was an unexpected inclusion on the list. John Lynch said, “[i]t’s something in the lower leg that just popped up in the last couple weeks.” He told the team and they’ve been working to get him right. Lynch said they feel good about it, but they are being cautious and he does not think it will be long before he comes off the list.
Kyle Shanahan said that in Smith’s absence, Brock Coyle would likely start next to Reuben Foster, and Fred Warner is right behind him on the depth chart.
Speaking of Foster, he will be suspended the first two weeks of the season. He is allowed to practice and play in preseason games, but then cannot take part in team activities the two weeks of his suspension. Shanahan said the team does not plan on making any changes to their training camp approach at linebacker knowing they will be starting someone in Foster’s place for two weeks.
“For me personally, you lose starting linebackers on a Friday practice and that backup’s been doing scout team all week and he’s got to start on Sunday and play a whole game. So I’m looking at it as our room is going to be hurt the first couple games, but yeah, it’s different from him being suspended so we know that in advance. I don’t want that to affect, we expect to play with him the rest of the year and Reuben needs to get his work in, especially since he missed some OTAs and things like that. Reuben is our starting linebacker. We’re going to go with that just like we would before this year started and I think as we get closer to Minnesota, then we’ll reevaluate that and obviously get our guys who are going to play in that game the best chance to be prepared.”
Coyle is returning from January labrum surgery, but is good to go for practice. The big question for this group, aside from Malcolm Smith’s injury, is how long will it take for Fred Warner to move up the depth chart? Can he supplant Warner during camp and preseason action? If he does so, the next question is whether or not he can supplant Smith by the time Foster returns from suspension. At what point will we have a Foster/Warner pairing at the MIKE and WILL linebacker positions?