Running back LaMichael James, who was in his home state of Texas for the start of the 49ers' offseason program last month, joined the team this week, according to multiple sources. James' previous absence means he forfeits a $50,000 workout bonus in his contract and was viewed as a signal that he is unhappy with his role on offense and wants a trade.
General manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh both sloughed off the absence, noting that the current sessions are voluntary. The 49ers won't have a mandatory minicamp until the week of June 16.
“No,” Baalke said in April when asked if he was concerned that James wasn't in Santa Clara. “Because he just had a young child and has a new baby at home, settling into life. Understand this, this is voluntary. This isn’t where they have to be here right now. You have to trust that the guys who aren’t here are working just has hard as the guys who are here.”
James is the team's primary punt and kick returner, something he did well last season after Kyle Williams was released. The 49ers are holding a three-day rookie minicamp beginning today. Draft picks Bruce Ellington and Kenneth Acker are expected to be among those returning punts.