The third-year running back hasn’t played in a game since tearing an Achilles on Nov. 25 against the New Orleans Saints. Hunter, however, has been a full-go in team periods of practice this week and has been able to test his rehab progress against San Francisco’s respected defense.
Hunter will now look to showcase his health in front of a national audience.
“Got the keys to the car,” the former fourth-round draft pick said with a smile on Wednesday.
But is the productive running back ready to drive the car?
“I’m ready to roll whenever they let me go,” said Hunter, who led the 49ers averaging 5.2 yards per carry last season. “It’s up to the coaches. I’m ready for any situation.”
According to Jim Harbaugh, Hunter has been cleared for contact by San Francisco’s medical and strength staffs.
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Hunter has picked up right where he left off.
“He’s been back in action at practice and when you dive back into the action, your instincts, your senses come back,” the 49ers coach said. “He appears to have that.
“I’m looking forward to and excited about him getting back on the field as well.”
Hunter said his vision is getting back to where it was last season. Being away from the game causes some rust, but it doesn’t completely erase the natural running ability developed by Hunter.
“I’m working hard, getting back to the reads and seeing everything again,” said Hunter who has rushed 184 times for 844 yards with four touchdowns in two years with the 49ers. “Football is football. You’ve just got to go.
“I feel like I’m getting back to myself, better.”
Hunter doesn’t know his exact role for San Francisco’s third preseason game, but he’s confident he can carry out anything he’s asked to do by the 49ers coaching staff. That includes picking up blitzes or helping in pass protection – a key component for any running back looking to be a three-down back in the NFL.
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“I can do everything I want to do and the things I need to do to compete,” Hunter said. “Whatever the coaches call and want, I’m there. I’m ready for whatever.”