The San Francisco 49ers announced that Marcus Lattimore will officially return to practice on Wednesday. This announcement officially opens Lattimore's 21-day window. The 49ers placed Lattimore on the NFI list at the start of training camp while he finished up his rehab. He will now practice with the team for three weeks, while remaining off the 53-man roster. At the end of 21 days, the team has to decide whether to activate him to the 53-man roster, release him, or move him to injured reserve.
The team could have brought him back to practice the week of the bye, but with no scheduled practices last week, it would have been a wasted week. By returning this week, Lattimore gets three full weeks, which Jim Harbaugh views as a training camp-like timeline. Harbaugh was asked how they would assess Lattimore in terms of contact since it is usually more limited in practice than training camp. Harbaugh said, "Yeah, I think we can give a little extra contact when we have the pads on for Marcus. Pass protection, sled, hitting sleds and maybe thudding up a little bit extra outside of the normal practice drills."
The 49ers could have activated Lattimore for Monday's practice session, but waiting until Wednesday could prove key. At the end of three weeks they have to decide on his status. Activating him requires releasing a player. In three weeks, if a player has gotten hurt on Sunday against the New York Giants, the 49ers might need a couple days to assess his status to determine if he will need to go to IR. By waiting until Wednesday to get Lattimore back in practice, the 49ers have some wiggle room if there are any notable injuries in that Giants game.