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SANTA CLARA – Marcus Lattimore sat in front of his locker stall at Levi’s Stadium, packing for the team’s trip to Denver on Friday.
As he spoke about his immediate future, Lattimore’s demeanor was even more positive than usual.
“As you know, it’s been a long road,” he told CSNBayArea.com.
When the 49ers return from the bye week, Lattimore will be cleared to practice from the non-football injury list, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told Lattimore and the media nearly two weeks ago.
After a 21-day practice window closes, the 49ers plan to activate Lattimore to the 53-man roster for the first time in his NFL career.
The 49ers are scheduled to reconvene from the bye week on Monday, Oct. 27.
Exactly two years earlier, Oct. 27, 2012, South Carolina's star running back sustained a gruesome right knee injury that included three torn ligaments in game against Tennessee.
Lattimore has been attempting to work his way back to the football field ever since.
The 49ers selected Lattimore in the fourth round of the 2013 draft with the full intention of investing his rookie season into physical rehabilitation. He practiced for three weeks late last season, but the 49ers kept him on the NFI list.
When he reported to training camp this summer, Lattimore had hopes of returning to the playing field in the exhibition season. Instead, head athletic trainer Jeff Ferguson determined Lattimore should remain on the sideline for another three months.
“I felt good, but I felt when Ferg and I talked, it was the best plan,” said Lattimore, who turns 23 next week. “I just needed more time. There was no reason to rush it. It was a huge injury. It takes time. It’s still a process, and I’m still going through the process. But I feel great.”
Lattimore reported to camp at 225 pounds. He now weighs 220, and he believes he has increased his quickness.
“You just feel it,” Lattimore said. “A football game is different. Contact is different. But also when you’re out there, you’re not thinking about making that cut. You’re thinking about making this guy miss or picking up your assignment on a block. I won’t have time to think. I’ll just react and play football.”
Lattimore said he knew that he would be back at practice at some point this season. He was eligible to resume practice last week, but the 49ers wanted to wait until after the bye so that he could get three weeks of uninterrupted practices before his elevation to the 53-man roster.
What excites Lattimore the most about his return to practice?
“Just the contact, really,” he said. “Being able to get back up and keep rolling. I want to put together consistently good days of practice so they trust me to go out there and play. That’s the biggest thing.”
Harbaugh dismissed the players on Monday for the bye week. Most of the team traveled back to their homes before returning for the final nine weeks of the regular season. Lattimore, however, is going nowhere, he said.
Lattimore remains in Santa Clara to continue to work out in anticipation of beginning to practice next week. After three weeks, Lattimore hopes to put together a convincing case that he can make a contribution.
“I’m staying here,” he said. “I’m going to keep grinding, as always.”