When the 2012 season ended, LaMichael James had one clear goal –become more explosive.
In the midst of his first full offseason in the NFL, something James didn't have as a rookie because he had to wait until Oregon's graduation last May to fully join the 49ers offseason program, the second-year running back is seeing results.
"I'm way more explosive," James told reporters after Tuesday's Organized Team Activities. "I always felt that I was long-fast. I didn't really know how explosive I was at the point of attack. I really worked hard at that, just being more explosive."
Because of his dedication in the weight room, James has also added weight. He's gained 10 pounds from last season. Now at 205, James feels better equipped to handle the physicality that comes with a 16-gameregular season.
"I needed to, just to take those hits, blocking, different things like that," James said. "I needed to get a little stronger. I really worked hard towards that this offseason."
James has also taken full advantage of his reps during OTAs, feeling much more at home in the 49ers offense.
"I'm completely comfortable," James said. "Last year, I wasn't even here and I didn't get to do any of this stuff. It's kind of new for me, too. I've been in the offense for a year. I picked it up pretty fast, to my knowledge. Now it's kind of second nature to me."
Fielding punts is also coming easier to James, who admits Candlestick Park can be a nightmare when it comes to judging a ball in the swirling San Francisco winds.
"You just got to see the ball," James said. "Judging the ball is key. Even though you have more wind in Candlestick, it's really just judging the ball, knowing where it's going to land and studying the nose."
James has been rotating as a punt returner this offseason at 49ers OTAs. He is also a favorite to continue his role as the team's main kick returner.
James returned 14 kickoffs last season, averaging 29.8 yards per attempt. James fielded just four punts in 2012 and would like to become a reliable option in that area for special teams coordinator Brad Seely.
"Any opportunity to get the ball in my hands, I'm all for it – catching the ball, running the ball, punts," James said. "No matter what it is, I'm all for it. I just want to help the team win any way I can."