The San Francsico 49ers made the day of quite a few 49ers fans on Saturday, as they selected South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore with a fourth round pick. Although the 49ers are incredibly deep at running back, Lattimore is a guy they can bring along slowly if they so choose.
Lattimore spoke with the media via conference call on Saturday, and he addressed the topic of his injury recovery. Last season, Lattimore tore his ACL, LCL and PCL, while also dislocating his knee. He has been on the comeback trail ever since, and feels he is making excellent progress. In describing his current status, Lattimore indicated he is running sprints and generally running straight ahead. He is doing box jumps, and is generally moving forward with his rehab.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh spoke with NFL Network a little while ago, and he indicated the team would not put Lattimore on the field until he is 100%, "and that may not be this year." This will be something we will pay close attention to heading into the summer. The team would need to place him on the PUP list early in training camp, so we'll start to get an idea of things fairly quickly.
What does it mean for you, not just to go to the NFL, but to come to the 49ers?
"You know what, it's still surreal to me. This is a great opportunity with a great organization and I just can't wait to get there. I've always been a fan of those guys, just their style of play and how they do everything. I'm so excited I get to work with all the great running backs and everybody on the team. It's just going to be a great experience."
How well do you know RB Frank Gore and do you think you run similarly to what he does?
"I really only talked to him a few times, after my injury and just through texts, but I know he's a great guy. I know he's a hard worker and I know he's determined. I know I'm going get to know him a little bit better once I get there. So, I'm real excited about that."
Did he contact you after your injury?
"Yeah, he contacted me. And, he called me and then we actually talked on the phone."
Were you guys put in touch by CB Chris Culliver?
"Yeah, actually we were. And [CB] Chris [Culliver] actually got my number and he gave it to Frank Gore and then we were, yeah, that's how we got in contact."
What did Frank Gore say to you?
"He was just asking me how I'm handling all this situation because he's been through the same thing with the injuries and all. He's just told me to keep that positive mindset and that's what I've been doing these past five, six months. And I feel like that's why I'm doing so great with my rehab."
Just style-wise, do you feel like there are a lot of similarities between you and Frank Gore?
"Definitely. He can catch the ball. I feel like I catch the ball well. He can pass protect. He's an all-around back. That's what I'm trying to emulate my style off because with his success, there's no question that it works. So, that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to get better in all three phases of those games."
Take us through where you are right now in your rehab.
"Running sprints. I'm doing everything I can. Been running straight ahead, been doing box jumps and been doing a lot of different things that really get you back out there on the field. It's just been great. I've been working hard."
You had the dislocated knee. What other ligament damage and surgeries did you have?
"It was ACL, LCL and PCL."
How have you been handling everything and dealing with everything after having an injury last year, you had the injury two years ago and to have it happen again after the success you've been having? And how much, not only have you been handling it, but also how much does that come into your decision to enter the NFL early?
"I just thought about my future. And I love football and I wanted to play football and I knew if I had a chance to go down to [Dr. James] Andrews Institute ACI in Pensacola, [Florida] and rehab twice a day and let Dr. Andrew do my surgery, I knew I could get back out there and do the things I do. So, it was basically putting all my time into football. And, I only have a few more classes in my degree, so I plan on going back to get that too."
I think because the 49ers took you and obviously they have several good running backs here already, a lot of people already, given your injury, think you'll kind of have a redshirt rookie year and just kind of ease into things. Is that something you anticipate happening or are you going to be eager to contribute right away?
"We really haven't even talked about that. So, I don't have any clue. But, my main goal right now is to go in there and work hard, go in there and learn the offense. And, if I'm ready to play, I'm going to play. If I'm not, I'm not. I know it's going to be the best decision. I know the coaches and the doctors were going to make a great decision. So, I'm not worried about it."
Did you talk much to the 49ers during this process?
"Yeah, I actually did talk to them over the phone. I talked to them a few times and I talked to them at the Combine. And, I had a formal meeting at the Combine and it went real well."
Who did you talk to on the phone, was it Tom Rathman, the 49ers running backs coach?
"I actually talked to the head scout a few times and yes I did talk to [running backs] coach [Tom] Rathman."
Are you still in Pensacola?
"No sir, I'm not. I'm actually back at home right now training in Columbia."
So who made the call to you this morning, or I guess this afternoon there?
"It was actually [head] coach [Jim] Harbaugh, and then a chance to talk to the GM. Then I got a chance to talk to coach Rathman and I got a chance to talk to the PR, the media relations."
Just given the situation with the 49ers backfield, is there some comfort in knowing you don't have to be pressed into service? I guess overall is this a good situation to fall into?
"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you."
Well just given the situation with your injury and the 49ers backfield is this a good situation for you? Obviously you can kind of ease into the NFL.
"Yes, sir and I get a chance to learn from a lot of great running backs that they have and those guys are all great guys. I just can't wait to be a part of that running back family, just the whole team. The whole team is great."
When you spoke with RB Frank Gore did he talk about how he had two big injuries in college, but really hasn't had any issues with his knees in the NFL?
"He really didn't talk about that, but he knew he could come back from what he had and he worked hard and he was determined to come back. It was just a great situation for him. He came in the league and he's been doing his thing for a while. He just kept that positive mindset, but he really didn't go into he hasn't had any injuries. But, everything happens for a reason and I realize that."
Does he serve as an inspiration and what other guys, running backs, whatever, have sort of inspired you throughout your ordeal?
"Yeah, he's definitely an inspiration and also Willis McGahee and a lot of different guys that had knee injuries, even defensive guys I've talked to. Those guys are all inspirations to me because of what they've been through and how they came through it. They all put God first in their life and that's what I'm doing."
Was that conversation with Frank shortly after your injury around the NFL season?
"Yeah, he actually called me right after it happened, maybe two or three days after it happened. Yeah, that's when we got in contact."
When the injury did happen did you worry that there wouldn't be an NFL career waiting for you?
"Yeah, I did. Right after it happened I doubted myself, I did do that and I lost hope. But one of my good friends came over, I got a chance to talk to Frank Gore, I got a chance to talk to Willis McGahee and I realized God doesn't make mistakes. He did everything for a reason and he put me in this situation. Now I'm with the 49ers. It's just a great, great situation for me."