Most players take it easy during early warmups, when they hit the field in shorts and a T-shirt to get loose before the pads come on. Not Alfred Morris, who used the hours before Saturday’s preseason game against the Colts to get in a lather and prepare for his audition stage.
“It’s something I always do,” the 49ers’ newest running back said. “I just like to be warm. I feel like if you’re warming up and you’re not sweating, you’re not doing it right.”
Morris took handoffs with a member of San Francisco’s training staff — running and cutting at full speed. Most of his new teammates, meanwhile, did some light jogging and stretching, which is more typical ahead of a taxing NFL game. Some even did yoga in the end zone while Morris worked with game-like intensity.
“It really just starts here,” he said, pointing to his head. “The physical part is easy, but when they’re like, ‘Hey, we’re going to ride you,’ I’m like, ‘Come on, bring it.’”
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Morris made his 49ers debut Saturday after being signed off the street out of necessity Aug. 14. He sat out last week’s preseason loss in Houston to get acclimated to football after spending the entire offseason unsigned.
He finished with a game-high 84 rushing yards on 17 carries, providing optimism for San Francisco’s ground game that struggled in the first two exhibition contests. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry, compared to the running backs’ 3.3-yard average against Dallas and Houston.
“I still got a lot of juice in these legs; I still got a lot of miles to go,” Morris said. “I feel great.”
Morris is no sure thing to crack San Francisco’s 53-man roster. But after his performance in Indianapolis, the team will feel better about the 29-year-old runner and his chances at providing insurance at running back while the top-two players at the position, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida, are working back from injuries.
“I was happy with Alf from what I saw,” Kyle Shanahan said. “It looked like he got some good looks and it looked like he always got a little bit more than what they blocked for, so he ran hard and I was pleased with him.”
Morris, 29, is well known by Shanahan, who brought him in after tapping him in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL draft when he was Washington’s offensive coordinator. Morris went on to average 1,320 rushing yards with seven touchdowns during his first three seasons, which included Pro Bowl selections in 2013 and 2014.
Morris’ game Saturday started with a 17-yard cutback run that was negated by a needless illegal formation penalty. But the tone was set. San Francisco’s offensive line had no problem creating lanes through the Colts’ struggling defense. And Morris helped the team convert third downs on all three of his third-and-short attempts.
“Some guys get opportunities and they don’t make the most of it. I just hope I’m never in that situation,” Morris said. “(I’m) thankful for the opportunity, and thankful I was able to go out there and do what I get paid to do today. Hopefully that kind of (increased) my odds of staying on the team.”
Reuben Foster suffers concussion; Jimmie Ward nicked
Standout linebacker Reuben Foster was supposed to get plenty of playing time in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Chargers because of his two-game suspension to open the season. But that plan looks like it will change after Foster left Saturday in the third quarter with an apparent concussion.
Foster will likely sit out until he’s first eligible to appear in a game Week 3 when the 49ers travel to play the Chiefs on Sept. 23. That leaves Malcolm Smith, rookie Fred Warner and veteran Brock Coyle to compete for playing time Weeks 1 and 2 against the Vikings and Lions.
“We got a battle there for those first two weeks,” Shanahan said. “Fred got his first playing time Week 2, he’s got a chance to be one of the guys, one of those two inside players for Week 1.”
▪ Jimmie Ward left the game with a quad injury suffered on special teams. It prevented the former first-round pick from playing any defensive snaps. He started the first two exhibition games in Richard Sherman’s place at left cornerback. Shanahan said the prognosis of Ward’s injury is unknown. His $8.5 million salary is the most of any San Francisco defender — and it’s fully guaranteed on his fifth-year option.