In case you missed it over the weekend, running back Kendall Hunter was activated off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list on Saturday. Although he did not practice on Saturday, he was in uniform for the 49ers Fanfest at Candlestick. Chris Biderman of Niners Digest indicated Hunter suited up and did individual drills on Sunday, but it appeared the 49ers were easing him back into full team practice.
Hunter is now about 8-and-a-half months removed from the complete Achilles tear he suffered in the 49ers Week 12 win over the New Orleans Saints. Just five months out, it was reported Hunter had resumed sprint work. At six months removed, he attended OTAs. At that time, he performed individual drills in front of team doctors. Hunter was able to cut and change direction, which showed he had made significant progress. Although the 49ers anticipated his return by the beginning of training camp, it came as no surprise the team intended to take their time with Hunter. The team made it clear it would not rush any player's rehabilitation.
The main concern for those suffering from an Achilles rupture is elongation of the tendon. If the tendon is elongated (or stretched), it causes irreversible damage. At the same time, the tendon needs proper weight bearing, so the range of motion is not lost. It is a delicate balance. Achilles tendons are one of the strongest tendons in our body. After the initial 3-4 month phase of rehabilitation, if the tendon heals properly it will become very strong once again.
All signs show Hunter is well on his way to recovery. Although the doctors cleared him, does this mean Hunter will play on Friday against Kansas City? It is unlikely. Notwithstanding he would be playing with less than a week of practice, the 49ers are taking a notably conservative approach with their injured players. When Kyle Williams returned from his ACL injury, a week-long absence due to a hamstring strain kept him out of the 49ers preseason game against the Denver Broncos. He got in four days of practice, but the team played it conservative.
Considering the extent of Hunter's injury, it is highly unlikely he will play. His making the roster is not contingent on his performance in practice. Rather it hinges on his health. We know Hunter will most likely share time with LaMichael James behind Frank Gore.
Now that team doctors have let go of their medical leash, we will begin to see Hunter become more acquainted with the results of the surgery. Statistically, 80% of patients who reach this point, will be able to perform everything they did before the injury. Only about 5% of patients coming from Achilles rupture surgery will re-rupture. The odds are in his favor.
We will keep an eye on Hunter's progress, but I do not imagine we will see him in the game until week one of the regular season.