SANTA CLARA — After 11 months and five days, 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon finally gets his first taste of practice, as he was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list Tuesday.
While the coaching staff is happy to have McKinnon back on the field, they will ease him back into action gradually. Expect to continue to see Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman carrying the load of the snaps with the ones as they have thus far.
Coach Kyle Shanahan detailed how they will keep McKinnon out of team drills for the time being, monitoring his health as training camp progresses. There is no concrete time table for him to participate in team drills but playing in Week 1 has not been ruled out.
“I mean, I think there’s enough time,” Shanahan said. “But that depends on, that’s why you want to be so smart, see how things go. That’s why you always try to avoid setbacks. That’s why we’re easing him in slowly."
“We were just glad to have him out. I know he probably had a lot of butterflies getting out for the first time, but we only let him go on air. He was just able to do individual and stuff like that.”
Like any athlete rehabbing from an injury, McKinnon is itching to get back on the field but will follow the advice of the medical staff.
“It’s been a long process, just thankful to get back out there, around the guys, in the huddle, hear play calls, just get into the small things about football,” McKinnon said. “I told myself, just feel it out, make sure everything is smooth, focus on the details, work on trust, cutting off that knee.
“Everything will come, so trying to not get ahead of myself. It really hits you when you have something you love taken away from you. So every little thing was exciting for me today.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who is also working his way back from an ACL tear, has been practicing with a lightweight brace on his repaired knee. McKinnon returned to practice without one and explained why.
"I don’t need it,” McKinnon said. “I haven’t been wearing one for, I can’t even count how long I haven’t been wearing it. There’s no need to wear it. It’s a mental mindset thing for me. I don’t plan on wearing it during the season, so, no need to wear it right now.”
Time off the field was frustrating for McKinnon, but he took advantage of everything he could. Like Jimmy Garoppolo, he spent a lot of time with coaches and says he’s smarter because of it. He even spent time picking the brain of Mike Shanahan.
“Being around the coaches, hearing their verbiage, it is definitely going to make you smarter,” McKinnon said. “Being around those guys seeing how they see the game versus how I look at it as a running back, expanded my view.”