SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Marcus Lattimore says he’ll know he’s fully recovered from his knee injury when a linebacker, lineman, safety — anyone — knocks him to the ground.
“Once you put on the pads and you take a hit and you fall on your knee and you get up — that’s when you know you’re ready to go,” Lattimore, the 49ers’ fourth-round draft pick, said this week. “I mean, you can do all the agility drills, training drills, everything you want. But until you get hit, that’s when you know.”
Which means that it might be a year before Lattimore is certain he is 100 percent again.
While the 49ers rookie class has gone through full contact practices in pads since Monday, Lattimore was placed on the non-football injury list earlier this week. The former USC star is expected to remain on that list to begin the regular season, which would give the 49ers the option of activating him later in the season or shutting him down altogether.
Lattimore suffered a gruesome knee injury this past October in which he tore multiple ligaments and dislocated the knee cap in a game against Tennessee. He went through a grueling rehabilitation process to get ready for the draft. After the draft, Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers would slow that recovery down to make sure the knee fully heals. Lattimore said he understood and appreciated the 49ers’ caution.
At the same time, he said he’s made definite progress in the three months he’s been with San Francisco. “Honestly, I feel the improvement every day,” he said. “You get the running down, then you get agility. Then it translates to football after that. I honestly feel better every day.”
Lattimore told Yahoo Sports this week that rehabbing earlier this year with Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was an inspiration to him.
RG3’s knee also was reconstructed by Dr. James Andrews. Like Lattimore, Griffin had torn an ACL in his other knee a few years before.
Already motivated to heal quickly, watching Griffin drove him more, Lattimore said.
“I knew why he has been so successful,” Lattimore told Yahoo. “I don’t think we had to say anything to push each other. There were no negative conversations about our injuries or about anything. All our conversations were about what we were doing and what we were going to do tomorrow or the next day.
“I was blessed to have him out there. I know he helped me a lot.”