SANTA CLARA -- LaMichael James' frustrations with his lack of playing time were well documented and team officials knew he wasn't going to have a major role either at running back or on special teams in the opener against the Cowboys. Which begs the question: Why wait until after Week 1 to grant James' request to be released?
After all, the team cut a promising young runner, Glenn Winston, a week earlier with the hope of him landing him on the practice squad. Instead, the Browns claimed him off the waiver wire and Winston is now on Cleveland's 53-man squad.
“We felt like, you know at that time, LaMichael was the player we still wanted to look at, still wanted to develop,” Harbaugh said. “(Youn) can second guess that one.”
After releasing James, the 49ers signed coverage specialist and receiver Kassim Osgood.
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“We just felt like it was in the best interest of our team,” Harbaugh said. “It's what gave us the strongest roster, the best roster and adding Kassim Osgood back we thought made us stronger on special teams, gives us a flag carrier on the team.”
James rushed twice for zero yards in Sunday's win over the Cowboys. One of the carries came after a read-option toss from Colin Kaepernick that was defended well by the Cowboys. The team's No. 2 running back, Carlos Hyde, also is familiar with the read option and scored a short touchdown out of it in the second quarter.
Harbaugh today said the 49ers were happy with their roster and would not add a running back this week. That gives them just two tailbacks heading into Sunday's game against the Bears.
That decision is likely related to right tackle Anthony Davis' hamstring injury. Davis won't practice today and it's possible that the 49ers again will have two injured offensive linemen – Marcus Martin is the other – on the roster on Sunday. That means that Dillon Farrell would have to be in uniform for the Bears game as an emergency lineman.
Harbaugh also said of James' release, “We felt like there are things we could do to take his reps that he would have.”
In that sense, it's possible that jack-of-all-trades receiver Bruce Ellington could be used in the backfield at times in the same way the Packers use Randall Cobb or the Seahawks use Percy Harvin.
Another running back, Marcus Lattimore, could be brought back after Week 6.