LaMichael James today said that being a 49ers running back this season has been like a freshman who joins a college program packed with quality upperclassmen.
"Frank Gore is one of the best running backs out there," said James, the 49ers' second-round pick this year. "Then you have Brandon (Jacobs), then you have Kendall (Hunter). Everybody's really good. So I just learn a lot from those guys just like I learned from LeGarrette (Blount) and Jeremiah (Johnson) ... at Oregon."
James says he's constantly hearing from University of Oregon fans -- and even quite a few 49ers fans -- who ask when he's going to get on the field. James has been inactive for every game this season and, along with most of his draft class, has been relegated to playing the role of an upcoming opponent on the scout team.
James, who holds the Oregon record for rushing yards, said he's competitive and wants to play but insisted he's not frustrated.
"I don't look down and say, 'Hey, I'm a horrible player.'" he said. "I think I can play with anybody out there. I really do believe that. But at the same time, I do need to learn. That's big -- learn the NFL game. That's a huge step for me, just to get that down pat first before I go out there and make a fool of myself."
He's got an excellent model in Gore. James said he never watched NFL football and didn't know much about the 49ers starting tailback at the time of the draft.
"I had to make that assessment when I got here," James said of Gore, who currently ranks fifth in rushing yards. "He's not lazy. He comes out to practice and he works hard. He always finishes runs. He's a complete pro. I just want to (model) myself after him, try to pick up some of the cues so one day I can be a great running back in this league."
Gore, meanwhile, said he went through a full practice today after suffering bruised ribs Thursday. He said his breathing is back to normal and he's getting full night's sleeps again. He said he had to sleep sitting up immediately after the injury. "I feel a lot better from when it happened," Gore said. "Now it's go through hard, and when the Monday Night game comes, go play."
-- Matt Barrows