San Francisco 49ers third-year running back LaMichael James is stuffed on the team’s depth chart, and Trent Baalke has added talent to the position in each of the past two years by drafting Marcus Lattimore last year and Carlos Hyde, who was widely ranked as the top RB in this year’s draft class, this May. Lattimore is now fully recovered from his knee injury and ready to compete in training camp, so there’s a rotation of talented backs looking to chomp at the bit behind Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, who will be Gore’s top backup until unseated.
James has already voiced his desire to leave the 49ers organization due to the crowded backfield, and he made that clear even before the team added Hyde. The former Oregon Ducks star back was an unsurprising no-show at workouts earlier this month, but the Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows reports that James is finally back in the fold.
Per Barrows, James was in Texas training at the beginning of May, and he will have to forfeit $50,o00 in workout bonuses for the time missed. His decision to avoid training with the rest of the team seemed to make a statement that he is truly unhappy with the team, but the statement did cost $50,000 to make. He’s back for mandatory workouts, but both Baalke and Jim Harbaugh have downplayed the meaning of his absences earlier. We’ll see how things play out, but the 49ers stated earlier this offseason that they don’t intend to trade James. If they somehow get the right offer at their desk, then I’m sure they’ll be willing to change their minds. At this point in time, the 49ers backfield is so crowded that I wouldn’t consider James a lock to make the starting roster, even if his explosiveness as a returner gives him a key advantage.