Jim Harbaugh is impressed that Marcus Lattimore had the drive and determination to get himself drafted after experiencing such a devastating injury just six months ago.
But now he wants Lattimore to slow down, and he told the South Carolina running back as much today. "We're going to slow the aggressive, physical (rehabilitation) down and make sure that Marcus is going to be 100 percent healthy before he's out there on the field," Harbaugh said. "I've told him that, shared that with him, shared that with his mother, and if he doesn't play this year, he doesn't play this year."
Lattimore seemingly is a candidate for the non-football injury list. That would allow him to continue to rehabilitate his right knee with the 49ers without having him count toward the 53-man roster. Another running back, Jewel Hampton, spent most of the 2012 season on the NFI list last year.
Hampton is another reason why the 49ers can afford to take their time with Lattimore. They have depth at the position, including him, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon. Hunter should be back for training camp after tearing his Achilles tendon Nov. 25.
Lattimore, meanwhile, tore three ligaments in his right knee late in the second quarter in October. He said he has been sprinting for the last two weeks and has vowed to be ready for the 2013 season.
Harbaugh, however, says there's no rush and that Lattimore would not be on the practice field anytime soon.
In fact, he said he's concerned that some draft-eligible players coming off of injuries push themselves too hard in the run-up to the draft to impress teams. Second-round pick Tank Carradine, for example, went through a gauntlet of drills this month just 135 days after ACL surgery.
"These guys are competitive and (they have) the opportunity to show what they can do, all the people coming in to work you out - as a competitor you want to take it to the limit," Harbaugh said. "Yes, that does worry me."
-- Matt Barrows