SANTA CLARA -- Marcus Lattimore, who missed Friday's practice and was absent from Sunday’s game, is at a crossroads and is contemplating whether he wants to continue his comeback from reconstructive knee surgery. His agent, Michael Perrett, said no decision has been made on his future but an ESPN report said the running back has decided to retire.
Lattimore, 23, practiced for the first time this season on Wednesday and Thursday but did not take part in Friday's session. The absence drew only vague responses from Jim Harbaugh, who said that Lattimore “hung back in the training room” instead of practicing. In actuality, Lattimore went to team officials Friday and said he was thinking about retirement.
He is expected to meet with the 49ers, including general manager Trent Baalke, again today. After Sunday’s game, Harbaugh said he expected there to be some sort of announcement regarding Lattimore. He didn’t elaborate.
Lattimore has suffered major injuries to both knees since 2011 when he tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee. He returned from that injury and suffered a far more devastating one to his right knee in 2012. The injury left him with three torn knee ligaments and a dislocated kneecap, and it required reconstructive surgery.
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Lattimore is not believed to have suffered any structural damage in the knee since his return to practice.
The 49ers chose Lattimore with a fourth-round pick in 2013 knowing that they could afford to give him plenty of time to rehabilitate from the injury. He has spent the last one and a half seasons on the non-football injury list, which means he can train with the team but is not on the 53-man roster.
Lattimore practiced with the 49ers in the spring. But as training camp approached, he was deemed unready and went on NFI again. In late July, general manager Trent Baalke noted that physical issues weren't Lattimore's only challenge.
"There's a mental hurdle and a physical hurdle you've got to overcome," Baalke said. "And he's close. How close? That remains to be seen."
How do doctors and coaches know when that mental hurdle has been overcome?
"I think the players tell you," Baalke said. "Just like Michael Crabtree last year when he was coming back (from an Achilles' tendon tear). It really came down to when he believed in his mind he was ready to go. You can't tell them how they feel. As a player, they know when they're ready."
Lattimore spoke about those mental issues on Wednesday. Asked what he's done mentally during his comeback attempt, he said, “Talked to people. Just don't keep it in. When you're having those bad days. Because I've had a lot of bad days when my knee was sore. I have to do a lot of different things. I talk to my girlfriend, I talk to my mom, talk to my sister. Just let them know. … That was the biggest thing. And of course my Faith, my faith in the Lord, knowing no matter what happens, if I play another down, everything is in his plan and I trust in his plan.”
Before his first practice of the season on Wednesday, the running back said he felt ready “but you don't know until you get out there,” he said. He said confidence was the main difference between him now and in 2013. “Stronger, definitely quicker,” he said. “I didn't have any confidence going out there last year. That's the main thing. I feel stronger, the knee feels better. It's a huge injury. I knew it would take time, I just didn't know it would take this long. But I feel good.”
The 49ers currently have two tailbacks on the active roster, Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. Lattimore remains on NFI while Kendall Gaskins is on the practice squad.
Mentally: Talked to people. Just don't keep it in. When you're having those bad days. Because I've had a lot of bad days when my knee was sore. I have to do a lot of different things. I talk to my girlfriend, I talk to my mom, talk to my sister. Just let them know. … That was the biggest thing. And of course my Faith, my faith in the Lord, knowing no matter what happens, if I play another down, everything is in His plan and I trust in His plan.”
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.