Just because San Francisco 49ers rookie running back Marcus Lattimore wants to play in 2013 doesn’t mean the team should be any more compelled to do so. The former South Carolina star says he probably won’t take part in the team’s training camp, but the 49ers should definitely consider keeping him out for even more time.
Back in October 2012, Lattimore suffered a severe injury that forced him to have major right knee reconstructive surgery. Already back on his feet and taking part in some light drills, he proclaimed that he would be ready for the start of the season before the 2013 NFL Draft.
At least that was before the 49ers selected him in the fourth round.
It is clear that the 49ers are not in dire need of Lattimore’s services this season. Although he is racking up years and mileage as a feature back, Frank Gore is still a great option with a defined role in the team’s running game. Kendall Hunter grew as a running back and complement to Gore’s running style. A rookie last season, LaMichael James was an explosive weapon once he started to get more carries in the second half of the season.
While he could possibly be an asset in select situations when healthy, it is not worth risking Lattimore’s long-term value for a team that has several capable backs at their disposal. The 49ers will likely place him on the PUP list, making him inactive for the first six games of the season. From there, the team could later reevaluate his health.
It is sometimes rare nowadays to find top-notch players willing to sit out an entire season, regardless of their situation. With Lattimore saying that he’s “fine” with sticking to whatever timetable given to him, the 49ers have a player who understands his role, understand his injury status and recognizes the smart decisions made by the team executives.
Part of the reason why San Francisco was a great location for Lattimore was because of their depth at the position. Now the 49ers should let him focus on his rehabilitation to be a key asset for the 2014 season.
Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports
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