The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their third day of training camp practice with the Baltimore Ravens, and the last two days brought some interesting information. Running back LaMichael James, rehabbing his dislocated right elbow, was spotted catching some passes and taking some handoffs in his right arm.
LMJ was not an official practice participant, but the fact that he is getting this kind of work in bodes well for his eventual return to the field. Two weeks ago, Jim Harbaugh said the team expected James back in time for Week 1 of the regular season against the Dallas Cowboys. Harbaugh also mentioned that LMJ thought he could get back sooner than that. When James dislocated his elbow at Oregon he missed a couple games, and made his way back fairly quickly. I don't expect to see him in preseason action these next three weeks, but it sounds like Week 1 is a very do-able return date.
The 49ers return units currently consist of Bruce Ellington and Devon Wylie. Carlos Hyde has gotten some work in practice as a kick return as well. Ellington and Wylie each handled a pair of kicks, and Ellington also was back for two punts. Ellington did solid work on the kick returns, averaging 31.0 yards, but muffed one punt. He quickly got the ball and picked up a handful of yards before a penalty brought it back. It was a solid performance otherwise, but he will need to keep working on punts.
It will be interesting to see how involved James is that first game back against the Cowboys. He was looking very comfortable handling returns prior to the injury, but there is always the mental aspect of handling punts. We'll see how comfortable the 49ers are getting him back there. And of course, how much work, if any, they give him in the run and pass game.