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Marcus Lattimore appearing closer to return from NFI list

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Marcus Lattimore continues to rehab his knee on the NFI list, but indications are that he is getting closer to a return. We don't know what he'll do upon his return, but it's easy to get excited about it.

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The San Francisco 49ers lost Kendall Hunter on Friday to a torn ACL, but the one bit of "good" news out of the situation is that they are incredibly deep at a running back. Hunter was the most experienced backup to Frank Gore, but the team has steadily added more depth each of the last three years. They drafted LaMichael James in 2012, Marcus Lattimore in 2013, and Carlos Hyde in 2014.

While James and Hyde continue to practice each day, Marcus Lattimore should be joining them fairly soon. Lattimore was placed on the NFI list due to a combination of his knee injury, and a hamstring issue that popped up when he got back on the practice field this spring.

Saturday morning, Greg Roman referred to him as day-to-day. Several of the beat writers have indicated that Lattimore looks like he is close to returning. Matt Maiocco tweeted out this video Saturday morning (I believe it's from Friday's practice):

Matt Barrows tweeted out this video from Friday's practice:

These don't show Lattimore making the kind of cuts that will be necessary when he is carrying the ball, but he's looking pretty good for the work he is doing in each video.

Greg Roman discussed both Lattimore and Hyde, and focused in on how they will need to continue working on their pass protection. That has always been a go-to thing for 49ers coaches with running backs. If you cannot protect the quarterback on pass plays, you are not going to see much playing time. Lattimore needs to get on the field to show his knee is good to go, but also so he can get into those situations where he can work on his pass protection. Knowing your assignment and executing your assignment are two entirely different things. Getting on the field will get him work in pass protection, which can be reviewed on film each day.

None of this means Marcus Lattimore will make a huge impact in 2014. But getting him on the field and in game action at least gives the 49ers a better sense of where he is at. For now, we're left with a significant unknown. They've got the depth to be successful without contributions from Lattimore, but given his talent level prior to the knee injury, we all want to see if he can return to anywhere close to that level. Aside from the fact that such a return would be a great feel-good story, it would be pretty huge for the 49ers running back depth.