SANTA CLARA -- LaMichael James on Friday tossed aside his brace less than three weeks after sustaining a right elbow dislocation in 49ers practice.
“I’m good,” James said. “I can definitely play. I don’t have a brace on. I got rid of it. It shows weakness.”
James took part in the past two 49ers practices while wearing a blue jersey that signifies he is off-limits for contact. He took handoffs. He caught passes out of the backfield. And, most important, he handled punts. And, now, he believes he's ready to return to action.
“I feel like I’m full-go,” James said. “I don’t know if the doctors think that yet. But I feel good.”
James will not suit up for the 49ers’ exhibition game Sunday against the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium. He believes he can be available for the final two exhibition games. But there is no question where he stands for the team’s regular-season opener on Sept. 7 at the Dallas Cowboys.
“One hundred percent,” he said.
James sustained a right elbow dislocation during his final season at Oregon in a 2011 game against Cal. He returned to action 23 days later.
The latest injury occurred when he braced himself with his right hand as he went to the ground during a blitz pickup drill on July 27, he said.
“I instantly knew what it was,” said James, who popped his elbow back into place in the moments after the injury. “I’ve been through it before. It wasn’t as bad as it was (in 2011), but it swelled up a bit. I think it’s more of a shock thing when you look down and you see your arm out of place.”
James is fighting for a role in the 49ers’ offense behind starter Frank Gore. Kendall Hunter, the backup the past three seasons, is out for the year after sustaining a torn ACL. Rookie Carlos Hyde had an impressive debut and looks to be the leading candidate to be Gore’s primary backup.
As of now, James’ greatest value seems to be in the return game. James appears to be the most sure-handed of the team’s punt returners. He ranked 10th in the NFL last season among players with 20 or more returns with an average of 10.9 yards.