NFC West: LaMichael James

In a predictable development, running back/returner LaMichael James is staying away from the San Francisco 49ers' offseason conditioning program, which started Monday, a league source confirmed.

James
The Sacramento Bee reported last week the 49ers were shopping the little-used 2012 second-round pick. A league source said James would welcome a trade if it meant more playing time. The source would not say if James requested the trade.

This move, even though it's missing out on a voluntary program, is another sign James is interested in moving on. The only part of the offseason program that is mandatory is the June 17-19 minicamp.

There have been rumblings of James' unhappiness since last season. He has occasionally made cryptic remarks on Twitter and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have had to discuss his situation. At the combine in February, Baalke said James still had a place on the team.

The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. I don't get the sense the 49ers are suddenly going to play James more in 2014, so if he stays, he will continue to be dissatisfied with his playing time.

James likely wouldn't command much in return for a trade. Perhaps the 49ers could use James as part of a trade in an attempt to move up in the May 8-10 draft.
The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday evening the San Francisco 49ers are shopping running back/returner LaMichael James. Let's look at what it means:

James
Initial thoughts: There have been rumblings of James' unhappiness since last season. He has occasionally made cryptic remarks on Twitter and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke have had to discuss his situation. At the combine in February, Baalke said James still had a place on the team. An NFL source said Wednesday night James would welcome a trade if he meant more playing time. The source would not say that James requested the trade. I don't get the sense the 49ers are suddenly going to play James more in 2014, so if he stays, he will continue to be dissatisfied with his playing time.

What can the 49ers get in return? I wouldn't think much. Just because James was a second-round pick in 2012, it doesn't mean the 49ers will get like value. Remember, the 49ers acquired quarterback Blaine Gabbert for a sixth-round pick this year. Three years ago, he was the No. 10 overall pick. I just don't see the market being high for a little-used running back/returner. Perhaps James could be used as a chip to move up in the draft a bit. It wasn't a good sign that his college coach, Chip Kelly, traded for Darren Sproles instead of James this year.

Would the 49ers miss him? Not really. The 49ers have a crowded backfield and they could always draft someone to be a returner. I could see the team drafting a cornerback or a receiver who can help as a return man.
The San Francisco 49ers are clearly looking for more help for Colin Kaepernick in the passing game.

They were linked to several receivers during the first week of free agency, including Julian Edelman, Hakeem Nicks and Emmanuel Sanders. None of the pursuits materialized and if the 49ers do add a receiver in free agency, it likely would be for depth. The 49ers are expected to draft a speed receiver during the early rounds.

However, there are two in-house players the 49ers hope take the next step and are able to help the passing game: LaMichael James and Vance McDonald, each taken in the second round of the past two drafts.

The 49ers are particularly interested to see McDonald, who had an up-and-down rookie season, take the next step. He finished the season with eight catches and had just one in the final seven games, but he blocked well (he was known more as a receiver at Rice) as a rookie.

If McDonald can improve, it would take pressure off starter Vernon Davis and would give the team another field stretcher.

James hasn’t made much of an impact on offense in his first two NFL seasons. The 49ers didn’t run many screen plays last season, but James has the speed to be efficient on such plays. Last season, coach Jim Harbaugh, while answering a question on the subject, said perhaps the team would look into it.

As the team looks to open up the offense and have more explosive plays, perhaps McDonald and James will play a role.
Echoing what coach Jim Harbaugh indicated Thursday and keeping to the mantra of the organization, San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke predictably had this message when speaking to the media Friday: the team’s free-agent plan will be to keep its own.

“Our No. 1 objective is to keep our own guys,” Baalke said.

Whitner
The 49ers' top priorities in the coming weeks (free agency starts March 11) are to re-sign receiver Anquan Boldin, safety Donte Whitner, kicker Phil Dawson, and perhaps cornerback Tarell Brown. Whitner might be the most difficult to sign. If I had to guess, I’d say Boldin has the best chance of being signed before free agency.

In other topics Baalke addressed:
  • Baalke praised running back Frank Gore for another productive season in 2013 and told reporters the 49ers don’t necessarily have to approach Gore to take a pay cut. He is to make $6.4 million this season.
  • Baalke said he expects Michael Wilhoite and second-year player Nick Moody to fill in for linebacker NaVorro Bowman in the first half of the season as Bowman recovers from torn ACL. Baalke also indicated the team could bring in some competition. He said Bowman will not be rushed.
  • As he did in October, Baalke said the team has no intentions of trading running back/kick returner LaMicheal James. Baalke said he believes James, a second-round pick in 2012, will get more opportunities to run the ball moving forward.
  • Baalke said pass-rushing star Aldon Smith is going well and said the team has “a great support system for him." Smith missed five games in 2013 when he voluntarily entered a substance abuse center. He finished the season strong.
  • Baalke spoke glowingly of 2013 fourth-round pick Quinton Patton. The receiver finished the season strong after missing 10 games with a broken foot. Patton impressed the team with his zeal for the game.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers' defense has evolved this season.

In the recent past, the 49ers were famous for not rotating many players on defense. But injuries have given several young players a chance to play. The youngsters have helped keep up San Francisco’s strong standard of defense; the unit has not slipped despite the infusion of youth.

Jerod-Eddie
One of those players is defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie. And it's likely he will get another chance to make a contribution Sunday against New Orleans.

It appears Ray McDonald will not play because of a high left-ankle sprain. McDonald is a big part of the 49ers’ defense, but Jerod-Eddie has played well. He and Demarcus Dobbs spelled McDonald when he was hurt early against Carolina on Sunday. Jerod-Eddie also played when Glenn Dorsey was hurt earlier in the season and didn’t let the overall line play dip.

The 49ers expect the same thing to happen Sunday with McDonald likely out.

In other notes:
  • The cuts of Kyle Williams and Perrish Cox may bode well for special-teamer Kassim Osgood. He was a surprise inactive player Sunday, but the fact that two players were cut Tuesday that were active Sunday shows that the 49ers still have plans for Osgood.
  • Williams and Cox were the backup punt returners. Now cornerbacks Eric Wright and Tarell Brown will backup LaMichael James on punts. Williams was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who had the 32nd and final claiming priority. If they didn’t claim him, Williams would have become a free agent. Williams joins former teammates Alex Smith and A.J. Jenkins in Kansas City. Cox went unclaimed.
  • The 49ers are practicing with 52 players on the active roster. Coach Jim Harbaugh said a decision will be made later in the week. Derek Carrier remains a candidate to be promoted from the practice squad if Garrett Celek can’t play because of a hamstring injury.
  • Running back Marcus Lattimore said Wednesday he still hopes to get on the field. Next week is the last week Lattimore can begin practicing. He is not expected to play until next season, having suffered a dislocated right kneecap and three torn knee ligaments.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- LaMichael James role with the San Francisco 49ers seems as secure as it has been all season.

James
The team expressed confidence in James on Tuesday when it cut both Kyle Williams and Perrish Cox. They were the only other punt returners on the roster. James took over for Williams as the primary punt returner on Sunday.

So, the team clearly believes James -- a backup running back who was a second-round pick last year -- can handle the job. James averaged 11.7 yards on three punts Sunday in the loss to Carolina.

With James now the punt returner, expect him to get some more carries at running back as well.

Also, the Cox release means Eric Wright will definitely be in the cornerback rotation, Wright was activated to the 53-man roster last week, but he didn’t play last week.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 10

November, 11, 2013
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SAN FRANCISCO -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 10-9 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
AP Photo/Ben MargotAs Colin Kaepernick and the offense go, so go the 49ers. And on Sunday, just about nothing went well.
Offense sputters: The 49ers lost this game on offense. The defense was terrific, but the offensive was lackluster, especially in the second half. All the 49ers had to show for the game was three first-half field goals. The 49ers had just 45 total yards in the second half, and quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 91 yards and was sacked six times, a season high. The 49ers had just 4 yards on 14 plays in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the 49ers’ success depends on their offensive production. In their six wins, the 49ers have scored at least 31 points. However, in their three defeats, the 49ers have scored in single digits.

Third-down defense sags: The 49ers' defense was very good; the Panthers scored on a broken play and a long field goal. But the 49ers were not perfect on defense. A major reason the Panthers won this game was the third-down success of quarterback Cam Newton. He was 6-for-8 on third-down passes in the second half. This is an area the 49ers immediately have to address with Drew Brees and New Orleans looming.

Smith being eased back in: 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith played about 12 snaps Sunday. Most of his action was as an inside defensive lineman on third down. It was Smith’s first action since Week 3. The 49ers are easing Smith back into game action after he spent five weeks at an alcohol treatment center. He said after the game that he understands the decision, but wants to play more. He said he hopes to be a full a participant next week in New Orleans. I’d think as long as everything remains positive for Smith, he will get more playing time next week.

Returning switch: Not surprisingly, the 49ers made a switch at returner. Kyle Williams, who struggled badly against Jacksonville in Week 8 before the team''s bye week, has been replaced on punts and kickoffs. LaMichael James was the punt returner Sunday and Anthony Dixon returned kicks. I’d expect the switch to continue.

Glenn Dorsey is active

October, 20, 2013
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a mild surprise, San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Glenn Dorsey is active and he will start Sunday at Tennessee.

Dorsey missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday. He was listed as questionable on the injury report. Dorsey injured his right hamstring in the first quarter of last Sunday’s win over Arizona.

Rookie Quinton Dial, activated from the physically unable to perform list Saturday, is active.

Running back LaMichael James is inactive again. He was a healthy scratch last week as well. During the week, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said James would have a role on the team this season.

Receiver Jon Baldwin is active. He was ill during the week and was listed as questionable.

Quinton Dial could be activated

October, 17, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters Wednesday the team might have to add a player to the 53-man roster if nose tackle Glenn Dorsey can’t play because of a hamstring injury.

Thursday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio backed up those thoughts. He said rookie Quinton Dial could be activated in time to play at Tennessee Sunday if Dorsey, who didn’t practice Wednesday, can’t play. Practice squad defensive tackle Mike Purcell is also an option.

Dial started practicing this week and the 49ers have until Nov. 5 to activate him from the physically unable to perform list. If Dial is taken off the PUP this week, there is no going back. The 49ers can’t put him back and they won’t cut the fifth-round pick. So, if he is activated this week, he is staying on the roster.

In other 49ers notes:
  • The 49ers have scored 30-plus points four times this season. Only Denver (six) has more 30-plus point games this season. The 49ers have scored 30-plus points in three straight games for first time in 10 years. That’s pretty impressive considering the lack of receiving weapons in San Francisco.
  • 49ers safety Donte Whitner chimes in on the Andrew Luck-Peyton Manning chatter this week.
  • Running back LaMichael James talks to CSN Bay Area about staying patient. He was a healthy scratch last week. Still, Harbaugh said James, a second-round pick last year, will have a role with the team.
  • What if Manning signed with the 49ers?
  • Fangio said this of team physician Dan Garza, who died this week unexpectedly: "He was an A+ doctor and a friend of everyone in the organization. Tremendous individual."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It seems like running back LaMichael James' season took a bad turn as the San Francisco 49ers made him a healthy scratch against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

James was hurt for the first three games of the season but had played two games in a backup role before being inactive Sunday. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that James, a second-round pick in 2012, will still have a role moving forward. Harbaugh said the team decided to go with just Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon as Frank Gore’s backups.

“His development's been fine,” Harbaugh said of James. “He’ll be back playing ... LaMichael’s a very good player and he is a very valuable member of our team. We’ve had a situation where we’ve dressed three running backs on certain games and in certain games we’ve dressed four. But, you know, I definitely, we definitely all value and look at LaMichael as a backup running back, like a two. And, there’s going to come time where he is a, like last year, where he’s fully in the mix and depended on and that time will come again. But, he’s doing a good job. I know he wants to play, he wants to be contributing, and when he is dressed he is contributing and doing that.”
A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 35-11 road win over the St. Louis Rams:

Digging deep: The 49ers simply had to win this game. They were 1-2 and were outscored by a combined 56-10 the past two weeks. Their offense looked horrible, injuries were piling up, linebacker Aldon Smith left the team to seek alcohol rehab treatment and they were playing on a short week. The odds were stacked against them -- and the 49ers responded. They dominated on both sides of the ball. They are now 2-2 and feeling pretty good about themselves.

[+] EnlargeFrank Gore
Scott Rovak/USA TODAY SportsFrank Gore gained 153 of the 49ers' 219 rushing yards against the Rams Thursday.
Back to basics: In the first three weeks, the 49ers didn’t run the ball consistently on offense and had trouble, at times, on defense. That’s not the 49ers’ way. They win by dominating on the ground on both sides of the ball. It sets their tone, which is what happened Thursday. Frank Gore ran for 153 yards (his highest total since 2009) on 20 carries. His 34-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-inches late in the second quarter gave the 49ers a 14-3 lead. It also increases their win probability 18.1 percent to 85.3 percent. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Gore had 115 yards between the tackles Thursday. He had a total of 88 yards between the tackles in the first three games. Defensively, the 49ers held the Rams to 18 rushing yards on 19 carries. It was a great bounce-back performance -- especially considering they were missing inside linebacker Patrick Willis -- for a unit that allowed 179 yards on the ground last Sunday against the Colts.

Dodging a bullet: This great win looked like it was going to be ruined very late in the game when standout left tackle Joe Staley was on the turf, yelling in pain. He later said he thought he broke his ankle, but he tweeted that he was fine. Coach Jim Harbaugh said it looked like the team “dodged a bullet.”

Youngsters get involved: The 49ers are one of the league’s youngest teams and they are starting to rely on some less experienced players. Receiver Jon Baldwin played for the first time since being acquired in a deal with Kansas City for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin came up with some big catches. Harbaugh liked what he saw. Running back LaMichael James played for the first time this season. He didn’t do much, but at least he’s in the mix. Rookie Corey Lemonier played a lot in Smith’s absence and looked promising. Michael Wilhoite played solidly in Willis’ absence. Getting these players work should pay off as the season progresses.
ST. LOUIS – I have arrived here for Thursday night’s San Francisco 49ers-St. Louis Rams game, to predictable 49ers injury news.

Willis
Davis
Both tight end Vernon Davis (hamstring) and linebacker Patrick Willis (groin) are listed as questionable for the game. Davis, who missed Sunday’s loss to the Colts, is more likely to play than Willis, who was hurt in the third quarter. Davis practiced on a limited basis the past two days. Willis did not practice this week; he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio nevertheless expressed hope he would play.

Both will be game-time decisions Thursday. Nnamdi Asomugha, the No. 3 cornerback, is also listed as questionable with a knee injury he suffered Sunday. He hasn't practiced all week.

Backup running back LaMichael James, meanwhile, was not on the injury report Wednesday. He has missed all three games this season with a knee injury. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday that James will likely be a game-time decision. If he doesn’t play, it will most likely be because he is a healthy scratch.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Receiver Jon Baldwin and running back LaMichael James are surely not the missing links to the San Francisco 49ers' offensive woes.

James
Baldwin
But they might get a chance to see if they can make an impact in the offense, which has scored a combined 10 points in the past two games.

The 49ers’ receivers beyond Anquan Boldin have been unable to get open in the two losses. The team missed tight end Vernon Davis, held out of Sunday’s loss due to a hamstring injury. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday that Baldwin has practiced well recently and there is a chance he could be active for the first time this season Thursday at St. Louis.

Baldwin was acquired from Kansas City in an August trade for fellow former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins. Baldwin is athletic and is capable of making big plays. But he failed to make an impact with the Chiefs.

James is getting healthy after suffering a knee injury late in the preseason. There are no guarantees he will be active when healthy, but don't be shocked if he is given a chance to play and provide a spark as a receiving option out of the backfield. ESPN analyst Matt Williamson thinks James could be a Darren Sproles-like player.

Right now, the 49ers’ offense has little explosion -- so any help Baldwin and James could give would be welcome.
There are four San Francisco 49ers listed as questionable to play Sunday against Indianapolis, the biggest question mark being tight end Vernon Davis.

Davis
Davis missed the entire week of practice with a hamstring injury he tweaked at Seattle. This was not unexpected; Davis tweeted this week that he would rest but be able to play. Coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday that Davis is a game-time decision.

The other San Francisco players listed as questionable are defensive lineman Ray McDonald (two sprained ankles), safety Eric Reid (concussion) and running back LaMichael James (knee). McDonald and Reid are expected to start Sunday.

Meanwhile, tackle Anthony Davis was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness against Seattle.

Justin Smith back at 49ers practice

September, 19, 2013
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers' practice participation list looked better Thursday than it did Wednesday.

Smith
Defensive lineman Justin Smith (shoulder) went through limited drills after not working Wednesday. Backup running back LaMichael James (knee), meanwhile, practiced on a limited basis for the first time in the regular season. His status for Sunday's visit from the Indianapolis Colts is uncertain; I’d say it's iffy at best.

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald (both ankles sprained) did not practice for the second consecutive day -- though earlier Thursday, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he expects his starting group to be fine Sunday.

Rookie safety Eric Reid continued to be limited after suffering a concussion in the Week 2 loss at Seattle. He said he has passed every NFL-mandated test thus far and is on pace to play Sunday.

As expected, tight end Vernon Davis did not practice for the second day in a row while nursing a hamstring injury. He tweeted this week that he was going to rest, on doctor’s orders, but that he expected to play.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains on the practice report with a foot issue. But he practiced fully the past two days and had no noticeable problems.

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