Marcus Lattimore’s 49ers debut is still months away, but the rookie running back at least will get a chance to practice with his teammates this season.
Jim Harbaugh confirmed Friday that Lattimore, a fourth-round pick who has been on the non-football injury list, will begin a 21-day period next week in which he can practice with the team.
“He’s a hard worker. He’s a willing, willing participant in anything he’s asked to do,” Harbaugh said. “I think it will be a great step for him.”
But Harbaugh reiterated that the 49ers have no plan to activate Lattimore this season.
The running back didn’t seem to care.
He suffered a devastating injury – a dislocated right kneecap and three torn knee ligaments – while playing for South Carolina on Oct. 27, 2012. He’s accepted the 49ers’ long-term approach for his recovery, but he also has said the reward for the monotonous rehabilitation work he’s been doing would be to practice with his teammates.
“It would be important to have my mind ready for the next year – real excited about it,” he said.
Lattimore said he’s been running at full speed, cutting like an NFL running back and picking up as much as he can from Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter and position coach Tom Rathman in the running backs meeting room.
“I’ve learned more in these four months than I’ve ever learned as far as how the defense plays, how to read fronts, how to read linebackers, coverage ... ,” Lattimore said. “(I’ve learned) so much about the game in the last four months, (more) than I’ve learned in the last 18 years. So it’s been big.”
Lattimore is viewed as a possible heir to Gore, who has one more year on his contract, in the role of workhorse running back.
Tight end Vernon Davis and safety Eric Reid were listed as questionable on the injury report after suffering concussions against the Carolina Panthers. Both practiced throughout the week and went through the final step – a simulated impact drill – of the league’s post-concussion protocol Friday.
If they are asymptomatic today, they will play in New Orleans. Reid and Davis actually went against each other to administer the contact needed for the final test.
“Just had to get banged around a little bit,” Davis said. “And that’s pretty much it for now. Now it depends on how I feel the next couple of days.”
Both players have said they’ve felt fine during the week.
McDonald suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter last Sunday against the Panthers. Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs filled in for him in the second half, and they will do so again against the Saints. Neither has started an NFL game.
Third tight end Garrett Celek missed practice this week with a hamstring injury and is listed as doubtful. The 49ers have an open roster spot and could promote practice-squad tight end Derek Carrier to the 53-man squad, but Harbaugh said no decision has been made.
Carolina strong safety Quintin Mikell also was fined $7,875 for hitting Kaepernick after he had gone to the ground following a 16-yard scramble at the end of the third quarter. Mikell was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Carolina running back Mike Tolbert was not fined on the play that resulted in Reid’s concussion.