SANTA CLARA -- Mario Manningham bounced into the 49ers locker room after his first practice with the team in 9 1/2 months to find a small group of reporters waiting at his locker.
“Do you have a minute?” I asked the wide receiver. “We’re excited to talk to you.”
“I’m excited to talk to you, too!” Manningham answered laughing.
Manningham, understandably, was in a great mood. He had never experienced a major injury before he tore two ligaments in his left knee last December 23 in a blow out loss to Seattle.
Joining his team on the field Tuesday, the six year veteran finally saw the light at the end of his very long recovery tunnel, and he is not looking back.
[RELATED: Harbaugh expects Manningham back at practice this week]
“I aint’ thinking about them crutches, man,” Manningham said animatedly making the media laugh as he cut off a reporter who started to ask him about his first days after surgery. “We’re passed that. I was sick of them, yeah, but that’s behind me. I ain’t talking about the crutches.”
Manningham has been running, cutting and catching passes for the past few weeks. Now that he’s back at practice, he says it’s a matter of putting everything he knows back together on the field. And, in his mind.
“Just trying to get my confidence back running routes. Trying to keep my quickness and get separation from the defenders.” Manningham explained.
“Trying to stay right upstairs. You can get caught up in not playing. Just trying to keep my attitude positive. That’s all, that’s it really. Trying to stay in tune with what the team’s doing, meetings and everything. It’s hard to be in meetings when you’re not involved in it. Trying to get back into sync and everything.”
Coaches want to ease Manningham back into practices and will wait and see how he responds to the increased workload before making any roster decisions.
“I don’t know how I’m going to feel next week. If I feel good I might play. If I don’t, I’m not going to play,” Manningham said. “I’m not putting a time limit on [it].”
Trusting his surgically repaired knee is not an issue.
“I know when I get out there I’m not going to be thinking about my knee, it’s stronger than my other one,” Manningham said. “By the time I step out there on Sunday I’ll be 100 [percent].”
Whenever Manningham does take the field, his “100 percent” may be different than before he was injured. Manningham says what he’s had to go through has taught him more about the game and himself as a player.
“I just learned how to break the huddle with a sense of urgency. Hurry up and get to the line and look at the DB’s,” Manningham explained about his extended time in meetings and watching video. “Just try to get the edge on a defender when I come back. Just try to stay ahead of what the defense is doing.
“Every day that you wake up you gotta think in your head that you’re going to come back stronger than when you left. I’m just trying to do what I have to do to get in shape, [be as] strong as I can, just smart as I can, to know the game more than I did when I get back out there.”
Glenn Dorsey walked through the 49ers locker room with a slight limp and his right hamstring heavily taped. The nose tackle left Sunday's game against Arizona after he injured the muscle. I asked him if he could share an update, but he politely declined. He did say that the injury 'felt pretty bad when I did it." But that it is not as serious as he initially thought.
"It'll be alright," he said.