SAN FRANCISCO Kendall Hunter received a short but heartfelt ovation from the 49ers' offensive line when he trotted onto the field during 11-on-11 drills Saturday. After all, it had been 8 1/2 months since the linemen had seen the running back in a huddle.
"Everybody was glad to see me back out there," Hunter said. "And it's a good chemistry there."
The 49ers on Saturday moved Hunter from the physically unable to perform list to the active roster after he fully recovered from the Achilles' tear he suffered Nov. 25 in New Orleans.
Hunter, 24, was the team's No. 2 running back at the time, and he was averaging an impressive 5.2 yards a carry.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said he thought Hunter eventually would retain that job but that it wouldn't happen right away. Hunter was eased into practice, and Harbaugh said he'd have to fight off La-Michael James, who took over the No. 2 spot in Hunter's absence.
"He definitely has been on it as far as his assignments very attentive at meetings," Harbaugh said. " But whenever you're coming off any injury, you've got to prove that you're back to 100 percent. And also you've got to be better than other people. But we all know what Kendall's about, and I think things will go well for him."
Hunter will be added to a backfield that includes starter Frank Gore, James, Anthony Dixon, undrafted rookie D.J. Harper and Jewel Hampton. James started Thursday's preseason opener and averaged 3.4 yards a carry with Dixon and Harper also seeing action at tailback. Harper's second-quarter fumble led to the only touchdown of the game. Hampton did not take any offensive snaps and did not take part in Saturday's practice due to a minor injury.
The 49ers now have two players on the physically unable to perform list, receivers Mario Manningham (ACL) and Michael Crabtree.
Crabtree tore his Achilles' on May 21. He is on schedule to return to the field in late November or December. The same surgeons who operated on Hunter's Achilles' handled Crabtree's procedure, and Hunter said Crabtree is continually asking him questions about the rehabilitation process.
"We talk every day," Hunter said. "It's good to have somebody that's been through that. He sees me back on the field, and it's motivation for him to work harder."
Sloppy Saturday The 49ers' annual FanFest practice at Candlestick Park ended on a botched quarterback-center exchange, which was an appropriate finale. The only public session of training camp was marked by bad snaps, dropped passes and false starts, and Harbaugh called it the most "raggedy" practice of the summer.
"Wherever we practice, what you want to see is a good practice," Harbaugh said. "This definitely was a raggedy practice offensively. Not pleased about that. We'll look for a better one (today)."
Et cetera First-round draft pick Eric Reid went down with an apparent lower back injury early in practice. It did not seem serious, but Reid, a free safety, was held out the rest of the session. The starting safeties were Donte Whitner and Craig Dahl.
Two players injured in Thursday's exhibition game, rookie linebacker Nick Moody (knee) and backup quarterback Colt McCoy (shoulder/neck) took part in practice. McCoy was wearing a blue, no-contact jersey, but Harbaugh predicted he'd be at full strength today.
Justin Smith (finger) returned to practice. Two other starters, Joe Staley and Tarell Brown, did not make the 40-mile trip from Santa Clara to Candlestick Park because of what Harbaugh described as minor injuries.
Tramaine Brock also took himself out of practice, giving Nnamdi Asomugha a chance to play with the first-string defense.