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LaMichael James to make preseason debut against Chargers

LaMichael James is sufficiently recovered from his elbow injury and will make his debut on Sunday. But where and how much will he play?

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James will make his preseason debut on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. The news comes from head coach Jim Harbaugh, who held a press conference on Friday. Fooch already talked a little bit about some of the other stuff from the conference -- namely updates on both safety Antoine Bethea and defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.

James returned to practice without a non-contact jersey on Wednesday, the first time he'd done so since injuring his elbow earlier in the offseason. While there were a few varying reports after he sustained the injury, the prevailing prognosis of a month's recovery time seems about spot on with this news that he'll be in action against the Chargers.

It'll be interesting to see what his workload is like and when he comes into the game. Frank Gore is obviously the starter, and just a few months ago we were barely talking about James here at Niners Nation. Then Kendall Hunter got injured and Marcus Lattimore never got cleared to play, and James took on a new, important role: backing up Gore. The elbow injury happened immediately after all of this, giving him just long enough to talk about how he was looking forward to his new opportunity.

Since then, Carlos Hyde has stepped into the primary backup role and he's looked pretty solid. Nine carries for 50 yards isn't exactly huge or anything along those lines, but Hyde has ran the ball well, made good decisions with said ball and has generally avoided looking like a rookie. Is James ahead of him on the running back depth or are we still looking at James as a potential kick returner and not much else?

For what it's worth, Harbaugh said that he expects James to "do more than return kicks," at least according to Taylor Price. Should be interesting.