SANTA CLARA -- Second-year player LaMichael James looked much more comfortable returning punts Tuesday during the 49ers' OTA Tuesday than he did at any point last season. He struggled handling punts in last year’s exhibition season. On Tuesday, he admitted he feels much better after working for nearly a year.
James flawlessly fielded punts during practice, along with Perrish Cox, Chad Hall, and rookies Quinton Patton and B.J. Daniels.
When asked if he envisions himself as the No. 1 man on kickoff and punt returns, James answered, "Definitely. You got to think like that. Any opportunity to get the ball in my hands, I'm all for it. Catching the ball, running he ball, punts, no matter what it is, I'm all for it. I just want to help the team win any way I can."
James struggled on punt returns during the exhibition season last year with three muffs and a bobble. He did not see any action until Kendall Hunter was lost for the season with an injury. Then, he took over as the No. 1 kickoff return man with a 29.8-yard average on 14 returns. He also gained 125 yards rushing on 27 rushing attempts.
James is getting the bulk of the first-team practices reps at running back, too. Hunter continues to rehab from a torn Achilles tendon, and Frank Gore is sitting out practices.
Jim Harbaugh said Gore is, "working through something."