Coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday said he expects 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, who spent his rookie season rehabilitating from a devastating knee injury suffered in college, to be healthy for the start of the offseason and compete for a job.
Lattimore, a fourth-round pick in 2013, and defensive end Tank Carradine, a second-round pick, suffered ACL tears during their 2012 college seasons and essentially had redshirt seasons as rookies with the 49ers. Lattimore also suffered tears to his PCL and MCL and a dislocated kneecap. Harbaugh expects both players to compete for roles next season.
“I have great hope for that,” he said. “There’s a path there. Nobody owes anyone a career in professional football. Your career is literally your business. But I have great faith that those men have what it takes.”
Harbaugh also said cornerback Chris Culliver (torn ACL) and nose tackle Ian Williams (broken ankle) were recovering well from their season-ending injuries. Culliver has resumed sprinting, while Williams has been off crutches for several months.
Lattimore will compete with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James for playing time during the offseason.
Gore, who suffered a broken ring finger in Sunday’s loss to Seattle in the NFC Championship Game, will be entering the final year of his contract. Gore, 30, caught a 17-yard pass on the 49ers’ final drive against the Seahawks but was not on the field for the team’s last five snaps. Harbaugh said he doesn’t know when the injury occurred.
Carradine will compete with other backup linemen including Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs, a restricted free agent in March.
Harbaugh said there was no timetable at this point on Bowman’s recovery.
“He’s got healing ahead,” Harbaugh said. “He’s got grueling rehab ahead. That is not the way that you would have foreseen his offsesason; to be coming off what many have talked about, and deservedly so, of a defensive-player-of-the-year type of performance. Great year by NaVorro.”
Other 49ers injured Sunday included left guard Mike Iupati, who suffered a broken left fibula, and left tackle Joe Staley, who sustained a compound dislocation of his thumb. Staley missed one snap just before halftime, had his thumb stitched in the locker room and played the rest of the game.
• Harbaugh confirmed Cleveland – presumably his friend Mike Lombardi, the Browns’ general manager – contacted him regarding 49ers assistants. The Browns are the only team without a head coach. While ESPN reported Cleveland was interested in defensive-line coach Jim Tomsula, Harbaugh would not say which assistants the Browns asked about.
• Harbaugh said no malice was intended when a team staffer made contact with Seahawks special-teams player Jeremy Lane on the sideline Sunday. Lane was forced well out of bounds while covering a punt and fell when he made contact with a staff member, whom Harbaugh declined to identify. The league is looking into the matter.