SANTA CLARA — 49ers rookie safety Marcell Harris is excited and ready for his number to be called.
It’s been a tough road for Harris, who missed his last season in Florida after tearing his Achilles during summer team activities. The 49ers still thought enough of Harris to draft him in the sixth round with the 184th overall pick.
There have been several 49ers injuries at safety this season. Adrian Colbert went on season-ending injured reserve, and Jaquiski Tartt has been battling a shoulder injury. As a result, Harris was activated to the 53-man roster Nov. 1.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan spoke about how mentally challenging it has been for the rookie to not be able to get out onto the field.
“Marcell, it’s been a tough road for him,” Shanahan said. “He wanted to come and help us right away coming off his Achilles from his last year in college. It was tough. He’s been itching to get out there every second.
“Tried in training camp, wasn’t quite ready. He’s been waiting so hard for the day he could come out and practice. I know it was a couple weeks ago. The time he got to come out and practice, I think it was the Green Bay week, was his first time.”
Even when Harris finally was able to practice, it didn’t go exactly the way he wanted.
“We had too many guys down on offense,” Shanahan said. “I think we had like eight starters out not able to practice that week. So, we had to walk through. It was torture for Marcell because he had been waiting so long to come out and practice, and his first practice back was a walk-through. He had to wait for that.
“Then, last week we had to walk through because of the Thursday night game. He’s been working, he’s itching to get out there. It was cool that he got out there and got to play a little bit last week. Hopefully, we’ll see him a little bit more as we go.”
Harris spoke about how difficult it was been to go against his nature and use restraint in practice.
“It’s been challenging, controlling the pace of everything,” Harris said. “I’m fast at everything. I’m very competitive, so every rep is like it's your last. It’s like a game rep. That’s how I approach it.”
Harris has taken advantage of his time not being able to suit up. He has used mental reps to prepare for when his number is called.
“I just lock in and listen,” Harris said. “I have to stay in the game and mentally go through calls. Looking and watching through it helps when you get out there.”
Harris played six defensive snaps and 15 on special teams against the Raiders. He is very enthusiastic about the possibility of getting more playing time Monday night against the New York Giants.
“It’s very exciting,” Harris said. “I’m very blessed for the opportunity that I’ve been given. Coming off what I came off of, whenever my number gets called, I’m going to make the most of my opportunity.”
Harris doesn’t discount what he has been through. It’s been a struggle, but he believes it has made him a better player in the long run.
“The struggle was honestly the mindset,” Harris said. “Your mindset has to become a lot different. I had to do a lot of things differently than I would do before being injured. It’s a whole new mindset coming off the whole thing.
“Honestly, it makes you a better player when you come off of it, because you know how to treat your body, what to do, and your body knows how to work with your mind. I feel that was a big step for me because now I carry myself as a real professional in having to take care of my body the right way.”
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When asked about his goals coming back from injury, the answer was easy for Harris.
“I’m getting my goal right now,” Harris said. “I’m getting my opportunity right now. I’m on the field, and that was my goal to get back at it. I want to be one of the greatest safeties ever.”
To players going through the challenge of rehabbing from a major injury, Harris has a little advice.
“Keep your faith,” Harris said. “It’s just now. The injury is just now. Just keep your faith and know it’s going to come back to playing, and you’re going to be all right.”