Even with the injuries at running back, the 49ers are taking their time with first-year player Marcus Lattimore.
Lattimore continues to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right knee and a hamstring strain he sustained during the offseason program.
“There’s nothing that changes because another player on the team got injured,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said of Lattimore. “That’s irrelevant to his situation.”
General manager Trent Baalke said Lattimore is close to being activated off the non-football injury list. And Lattimore said he hopes to take part in his first practices of training camp this week.
Lattimore spent last season on the NFI list. Yes, his knee injury was sustained during a football game, but it was not during his employment with an NFL team. Because the injury was sustained in college, prior to joining the 49ers, and he never was on the team's 53-man roster as a rookie, he did not accrue an NFL season.
In February, Baalke stated the 49ers have Lattimore under contract for four more seasons. To clarify, Lattimore’s contract does not extend to 2017, but he will not be an unrestricted free agent after the 2016 season, either.
At the end of the 2016 season, Lattimore will have three years credit toward free agency. Therefore, he will lack the four years required to be an unrestricted free agent. Instead, Lattimore will be classified as a restricted free agent, and the 49ers still have some control over his contract rights.
The 49ers are wise to look to the future with Lattimore. After all, Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are in the final years of their contracts. And LaMichael James is signed through the 2015 season.