The standout running back out of South Carolina, selected in the fourth-round of the 2013 NFL Draft, was not active for any games in his rookie season. It wasn't a shocking development either.
Lattimore came to the 49ers fresh off his second major knee injury. The 5-foot-11, 221-pound running back spent his first season in the NFL on the team’s Non-Football Injury list. Lattimore was able to practice for three weeks during the regular season, but was never activated to the 49ers roster.
Lattimore expects to be ready for a full work-load in the offseason as he prepares to make his NFL debut in 2014.
“I’ll be ready to go,” said Lattimore, a former three-time All-SEC performer in college.
Jim Harbaugh, too, is of the mindset that Lattimore will hit the ground running in the offseason after using 2013 as a quality learning experience.
“I think this has been an outstanding year for Marcus,” the 49ers coach said. “Tough at times, but I think great things will happen for him.”
Harbaugh added that “there’s a path there” for Lattimore to carve out a role on the roster in 2014.
After two major knee injuries in college caused Lattimore to slide in the draft to where he was selected by San Francisco (No. 131 overall), the productive college running back used his time with the 49ers to learn the professional game from respected running backs coach Tom Rathman and the team’s star runner,
“Mentally was the biggest thing for me, understanding the offense,” said Lattimore of his experience with the 49ers running backs. “They showed me how to play the game, honestly. I’m real excited about next year.”
Lattimore said Rathman wants his running backs to excel in pass protection.
“That’s the biggest thing you have to know,” the rookie runner said. “If you can’t protect the quarterback, you can’t play.”
Lattimore won’t have to work on blitz pickups until training camp, but in coming weeks, the key will be working out to prepare for the team’s offseason program.
Lattimore will spend another week in the Bay Area and then train back in South Carolina before taking part in the team’s offseason workouts in Santa Clara.
Despite missing the field in 2013, Lattimore learned a lot about the NFL and his teammates with the 49ers.
“They’re competitors,” Lattimore said. “Coach Harbaugh puts you in the mindset of when you were younger and you had so much fun playing the game. That’s how we play here. We have so much fun when we play. That’s what people tend to forget when they get into the NFL.
“There’s so many competitors on this team, I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
All of the first-year experiences in San Francisco have fueled Lattimore’s fire to become a contributor next season.
“I can’t wait,” said the running back, who felt like he could have played in December but wanted to respect the team’s long-term plans for his career.
Lattimore took a calculated approach in his rehab process and believes it will be valuable for
San Francisco’s All-Pro linebacker suffered a major knee injury in the NFC Championship game and Lattimore knows what that experience is like.
“I know we’ll be talking,” Lattimore said. “It’s a long process, but he’ll get through it. He’s a hard worker. I’ve seen him work.”
Lattimore estimated it could be a nine-month rehab process for the star linebacker, but there’s no need to make it any sooner.
“There’s no need to rush the best linebacker in the NFL back,” Lattimore said. “An extra 10-11 months, he’ll be fine.”