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SANTA CLARA — Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster needs to change his tackling technique so he won’t destroy his body.

That’s what 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said on Monday.

Here’s what defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said about Foster on Thursday.

“This is going to sound ludicrous, but I think he can be even more explosive and more violent when he hits with proper technique. When he learns to run his feet through contact, he’s going to destroy people without hurting himself.

“Foster just throws his entire body in there. If he learns to actually accelerate through contact with his shoulder through the sternum or the thigh, what’s already explosive will be even twice that.

“When you leave your feet, you lose all your power, all that acceleration you built up to get to that contact point. I’m a big golfer, so it’d be like decelerating at the ball. You might still hit the ball 250 (yards), but if you accelerated through contact with all the right technique, that ball might go another 25 yards.”

Foster has injured his ankle, ribs and neck so far this season. He had to sit out temporarily during five games and missed six games entirely. He missed none the past two seasons at Alabama.

“They helped me a lot at ’Bama with my tackling technique,” Foster said. “That’s why I didn’t have any problems at ‘Bama. (In the NFL), there are bigger guys. It’s a faster sport. So, of course you’ve got to get bigger, faster and take care of your body.”

Foster said he plans to model his tackling technique after Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

“He uses his hands a lot. He’s a great linebacker. I look forward to seeing his past film to see how he made it. He plays in the same system as me, so that’s perfect.”


The NFL nominated rookie defensive lineman Solomon Thomas for the Pepsi Rookie of the Week Award.

Thomas recorded six tackles, one tackle for loss and one sack Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“He played with an edge to him (against Jacksonville),” Saleh said. “He has played with an edge to him all year, but he was making plays. He was productive. He was getting off blocks. I think he’s really starting to recover from that injury that he suffered earlier in the year, and we’re really starting to see what we saw in the first half of the season.”

Thomas sprained his MCL Week 8 when the 49ers played the Philadelphia Eagles. Since he returned from the injury, he has recorded 14 tackles in five games.

How would Saleh assess Thomas’ growth over the course of the season?

“I’m very pleased,” Saleh said. “I think we all are, really. He’s a very explosive athlete. He plays really good with his hands. He gets knock-back in the run game. There’s the developmental part with regards to consistency in pass rush, which I think he’ll reach. I’m not really concerned about it.”

Thomas was the third player taken in the draft, and has recorded only three sacks in 13 games this season while playing both defensive end and defensive tackle.

“Just being more comfortable with my position and my assignments and everything around me,” said Thomas, “that will help me play more smoothly. And being myself, playing more aggressively, not thinking, just going out and having fun.”

Saleh said he wants to simplify Thomas’ job next season by playing him at one position instead of two.

“We have an idea of where his best spot is going to be. We still believe that on third down, pass-rush downs, two-minute (drill), it’s going to be inside, him and (DeForest) Buckner.”


Most football analysts agree 49ers defensive end DeForest Buckner is one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Still, he did not make the Pro Bowl this season.

On Thursday, Buckner was philosophical.

“The numbers aren’t there, but I honestly feel like my skill set is there. I feel like I’ve been more effective this year against quarterbacks than I was last year,” he said.

Last season, Buckner’s rookie season, he recorded six sacks. This season, he has recorded only three.

“I’ll never look at stats,” Saleh said. “If we did, people would think Buck’s not a very good football player because he has (three) sacks. But, if you watch tape and you really study him you’d understand that he’s one of our better players.

“I think he’s one of the best in all of football. He’d be one of the best for every single team. Not trying to sugarcoat it for him. He is dominant in every facet of football.

“The scary part is he can still get better with pad level, he can still get better with hands, he can still get better at creating edges in pass rush. But as far as where he’s at now for a second-year player, as young as he is, he’s unique, he’s special.”

But does he belong in the Pro Bowl?

“You never really want to get caught up in (that)” Saleh said. “Buck has bigger goals in mind. Pro Bowl, it’s a nice reward I guess, but it’s not something that defines him.”

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