As the derby to replace Kendall Hunter gets underway, San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh cast a vote of support for LaMichael James.
“We have complete and total confidence in LaMichael James,” said Harbaugh during a press conference before the team’s practice on Day 5 of training camp.
“We know him to be a very fine football player.”
James only appeared in 10 games a season ago, but Harbaugh explained that the lack of playing time was primarily related to a knee injury he sustained in 2013 during training camp.
“I think you can look at where he was last year at this time. In training camp, he got an MCL injury and that kept him out of action for quite a while and it affected where he was on the depth chart.”
As Harbaugh put it, the 24-year-old is “on familiar ground” when it comes to competing for a spot.
“He was right in this same mix last year at this time. He’s on familiar ground. He knows the team has always counted on him. A top-level football player at the highest level.”
Harbaugh also dished out some praise for Carlos Hyde.
“Carlos Hyde is doing extremely well. First year player, seeing really, really good things with Carlos.”
The coach took a more cautious approach, though, when asked about the ongoing rehab of Marcus Lattimore. As Harbaugh noted, the second-year player is not yet 100 percent, which means that the team will have to continue to take a cautious approach.
“I have to think of it as my own son. What would I do with my own son in this same situation? I would do what’s best for him. The same applies for Marcus.”
Harbaugh was noticeably unhappy about the torn ACL that Hunter sustained, referring to the running back as an “ally.”
“I’m sick—physically sick—for Kendall.”
“Because he’s such a fine person. A great player, and a very good friend and ally. But he’ll be back, we know that, and that’s a, yea, in a funk—physically, emotionally sick over that. Great things will still happen for Kendall, I have no doubt.”
Finally Harbaugh mentioned that undrafted free-agent Jewel Hampton can’t be left out of the conversation.
“Jewel Hampton has been patiently waiting. He’s been training and preparing. This is an opportunity without question for Jewel to be a contributor. And very excited for that for Jewel.”