Malcolm Smith’s injury opens starting spot for 49ers rookie Reuben Foster

San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster has dominated the early portion of training camp. On Saturday, he might have gotten his ticket into the starting lineup.

Free agent acquisition Malcolm Smith left Saturday’s practice early and as Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area noted, “the team fears Smith may have sustained an injury to his pectoral that could place his season in jeopardy.”

Maiocco added that “Smith’s condition is likely to open the door for rookie linebacker Reuben Foster to move into the starting lineup at the weak-side linebacker position.”

San Francisco selected Foster with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Foster fell that far primarily because of a rotator cuff injury. Otherwise, he likely would have been a top-five selection. But Foster’s dominance in camp has minimized injury concerns that the 49ers have had.

Certainly, Foster is the long-term answer at the position for San Francisco. While it happened in an unfortunate way, the future of the position may well have begun on Saturday.