James Looks to Spark 49ers in 2013


LaMichael James brought electricity to the 49ers offense and kick-off return team towards the later stages of his rookie season in the National Football League.

The second-year running back is looking to continue his spark in 2013.

James was inactive for the first 13 regular season games of his rookie season, but eventually found a significant role for the NFC champions as a reserve running back and kick-off return man.

"That's how I look at myself, electricity to the team," James said after the first day of Organized Team Activities at team headquarters in Santa Clara. "I want to make big plays and provide a spark to the team, start drives and when the offense is out on the field, hopefully I can get more touches, score some more and just add to my game."

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound running back selected in the second-round of the draft scored his first touchdown in San Francisco's NFC Championship Game win over the Atlanta Falcons. In the regular season, he averaged 29.8 yards on kick returns and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

James wasn't able to take part in OTAs as a rookie due to Oregon's late graduation date. He came into training camp behind the curve, but worked hard behind the scenes to gain a better understanding of the 49ers offense. When Kendall Hunter was lost for the season in Week 12, James was brought up to the active gameday roster two weeks later against the Miami Dolphins.

James picked up 45 yards of offense and 79 return yards in that 49ers win and never looked back. The following week James supplied a 62-yard kick return to set up a game-winning touchdown in a crucial road win over the New England Patriots.

The second-year running back is taking every advantage of being around the 49ers facility this offseason. It's helping him carve out a greater role on the team, too.

"I really do need this," James said. "OTAs are fun. Everybody's here, it really is a team atmosphere. Nobody really has to be here but it shows what type of team we have. Everybody's in here getting it in, working out together and pushing each other to be the best team we can be."

James is continuing to grow in the 49ers offensive system and has thrived in the zone-read and "Pistol" plays that the team utilizes with Colin Kaepernick as the starting quarterback.

"My confidence is up right now and I think a lot of that comes from my teammates and my coaches and really just working hard," James said. "I try to be the best I can be whether it's the weight room, or whatever the team asks me to do I try to do it."

With no set starter at kick return or punt return, James continues to develop at fielding kicks. The second-year running back is taking every opportunity he can to become an even better punt return option for the 49ers.

"Honestly, I feel like I can be the best out there if I work hard at it, just keep learning and be motivated," James said. "I think confidence is a big key and I really want to help my team win and do whatever I can to help this team get better."

The punt return job will be one of the key position battles to watch an established roster. James, however, is working hard behind the scenes to carve out an impactful role on the 49ers.

He credits special teams coordinator/assistant head coach Brady Seely and special teams assistant Tracey Smith for working with him on fielding kicks and punts all offseason.

"They do a great job of helping me," James said. "They've really helped me with catching the ball better, so big ups to those guys.

"I think without them I wouldn't be in a position I'm in today. I have a lot of great coaches helping me out. It's really building my confidence and my teammates' trust in me to go out and be the best I can be."


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