LaMichael James carried the ball twice yesterday and gained zero yards. Today his agent, Jeff Sperbeck, announced that James asked for and was granted his release by the 49ers. Pro Football Talk has reported that the 49ers have re-signed Kassim Osgood.
This leaves the 49ers with two halfbacks — Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde. Even after losing Kendall Hunter (torn ACL) and Glenn Winston (cut – signed by the Browns), the 49ers did nothing to dissuade James.
“(The 49ers) could have held on to him and said ‘Hey, we need him.’ They were very professional about it,” Sperbeck told Eric Branch.
James didn’t want to return punts as a rookie, but last year he became one of the better return men in the league. He dislocated his elbow in training camp, and Bruce Ellington was the team’s primary returner against the Cowboys.
James experienced his greatest success as a running back in his rookie season, when he rushed for 125 yards on 27 carries (4.6 ypc) in the regular season. In the playoffs he looked like a player on the verge of breaking out — 55 yards on eight carries against the Packers and Falcons, which included a 15-yard touchdown in Atlanta. Then … the Super Bowl.
- Ravens leading 7-3, early in the second quarter
- First-and-10, ball on the Baltimore 24-yard line
- Courtney Upshaw forces James to fumble, ball recovered by Arthur Jones
Since that pivotal play, the story has been about James’ discontent, his strange Twitter episodes (Not about football!), and his ever-changing and shrinking role.
“I’m just as clueless as y’all. I’ll have to wait and see when that unravels if I have a role, or what my role may be. I’m still wondering about that, too,” James said less than a week ago.
Many thought he would be traded after last season. Perhaps the 49ers tried to unload him and found no takers. But releasing him today further cements what we all knew already — the 49ers continue to win despite drafting poorly in 2012. With James’ release, the 2012 group is clearly one of the worst draft classes in franchise history. Joe Looney is the only one who remains, and he struggled in pass protection yesterday.
In light of Ian Rapoport’s report yesterday that certain 49ers veterans feel Jim Harbaugh has lost the locker room, many are questioning whether James was one of Rapoport’s sources, or the only source. James defended himself against similar accusations in March, after Ann Killion wrote that, “One source with inside knowledge of the team says that Harbaugh’s act has worn thin in the locker room, particularly among some key “face of the 49ers” type players.”
It’s an easy correlation to make, but I doubt James was a source for either report. He was trying to get more playing time, so the “state of the 49ers locker room” doesn’t seem like it would’ve been a primary concern.
As for the 49ers’ next move, it’s probably time to scour practice squads throughout the NFL for the best running back options (or their own, which includes Kendall Gaskins). I can’t locate a list of every single practice squad player on every team, but the Seahawks have Demitrius Bronson, a running back out of Eastern Washington, on theirs.