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Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster has been sidelined since the 11th snap of his NFL career. But it’s looking more and more as though the former Alabama All-American will be back on the field on Sunday for the San Francisco 49ers.

“I hope the doctors are going to officially clear me,” Foster told reporters in the San Francisco locker room on Thursday. “I don’t know. But, hopefully, they see a child in me — like ‘Want a candy?’ I want some candy. Let me have some candy.”

In his first NFL game on Sept. 10, Foster suffered a high ankle sprain. The 31st player picked in the NFL Draft in April, Foster started at weakside linebacker for the 49ers in his debut.

During his 11 plays on the field, Foster made three tackles and broke up a pass.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said the 49ers would be “smart” about using Foster on Sunday, when they visit the Washington Redskins.

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“Reuben’s coming along,” Shanahan said on Thursday during an appearance on “Tolbert and Lund” on KNBR-AM in San Francisco. “Any time you have a high-ankle sprain, if any of you guys have ever had that before, it’s something that lingers for a while. He wanted to come back in the quarter after he got carted off, so he’s been waiting to play for a while. But it takes time. We’ve given it the month, and he’s had a good week of practice, but that’s also something you’ve got to be very careful with – with it being a high-ankle sprain and also that he hasn’t played football in a month.

“So we’re trying to be smart with it. He’s had two good days of practice. We’ll have another one tomorrow. I don’t expect to just throw him out there for the full 60, 80 plays, so we’ve got to be smart with him. Hopefully, he’ll continue to improve tomorrow, and we’ll have a little package and see how the game goes for him.”

Foster is eager to get the OK to play.

“I’m ready,” Foster said. “Whatever the doctors say goes. I’m ready for whatever they throw at me.”

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San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Foster was up to speed when he returned to practice on Wednesday.

“He’s been out there every day, walk-through and all that stuff,” Saleh said at a Thursday press conference. “He’s still getting all those mental reps. And yesterday he was sharp. Lined up. Got people lined up. It was really cool to see because he hasn’t actually taken a live rep since whenever he got hurt. To see the way he commanded the huddle and the way he got people lined up, it was very encouraging.”

Foster said he had “a few things to prep up” to be mentally ready to play.

While Foster has watched, the 49ers have lost all five of their games. After dropping the opener 23-3 to the Carolina Panthers, San Francisco has lost by 3, 2, 3 and 3 points.

“It’s hard,” Foster said, “but I just know what type of talent we’ve got out there. I just sit back and just relax. But at the same time, it’s just so hard because you want to be out there doing something.”