With Kendall Hunter's season ending prematurely, after suffering a torn ACL this past Friday, LaMichael James figured to be in a heated bout over who would become Frank Gore's primary back up. However, the 49ers backfield was shaken up once again this Sunday with James leaving practice with a dislocated left elbow.
NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport first reported that the injury occurred during a blitz pick up drill. James collided with linebacker Michael Wilhoite and was then carted off to the locker room. The Oregon product is expected to be out for about a month.
Oddly enough, James had spoken to reporters on Saturday about improving on his pass protection skills, stating, "It's more of a mental game. Eyes in the right spot. Picking up blitzes. Now this is my third year and I have a better grasp of anything."
Minor injuries has helped plague James' young career so far, as the third-year pro has yet to survive the preseason. Last year James suffered a sprain knee in the exhibition finale against the San Diego Chargers and during his rookie year of 2012, he injured his right ankle in an exhibition against the Houston Texans. Even dating back to his last year in college in 2011, James suffered a dislocated right elbow, which took him just under a month to return from.
Coming into training camp, the 49ers deepest position was their loaded backfield. As this weekend has shown, that notion will certainly be put to the test. With Hunter out for the year and James out of action for the next few weeks, the only healthy running backs currently on the roster are Gore, Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton. Marcus Lattimore remains on the Active/Non-Football Injury list for now while he continues his rehabilitation for his right knee, however head coach Jim Harbaugh expressed that the former South Carolina Gamecock is getting closer to finally hitting the field.
"As I watched him through the offseason you could see it getting better every single day…to ballpark a percentage, that would be hard to do. But it's not yet 100 and I say that more from a physical aspect than from a mental. When it gets to that point then he has the best chance to compete out there."
Not only does this shake things up a bit for the other back up running backs, but it also adds intrigued to the return game. While it was expected for the Niners to go into the season with James as the primary return man (punts and kickoffs), San Francisco still anticipated rookie wide out Bruce Ellington to give James a run for his money. Whether this injury truly affects the position remains to be seen, but Ellington is certainly a viable option should James be slow in his recover.
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Tags: Carlos Hyde, Frank Gore, Jewel Hampton, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Michael Wilhoite, NFL, San Francisco, San Francisco 49ers