SANTA CLARA -- Just a few weeks ago, cornerback Richard Sherman spilled the beans that 49ers backup quarterback C.J. Beathard strained his back while imitating Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray on the scout team prior to their game against Arizona. 

As the 49ers prepare to face Lamar Jackson, the team went a different direction and will use wide receiver Richie James to play the role of the dynamic Ravens quarterback. Even though James is a leftie and Jackson is not, the receiver’s mobility will be effective in imitating the MVP candidate. 

“Taking me back to my old days,” James told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I guess that’s what they are trying to do. I’m trying to figure it out now as we speak. About to take some snaps right now.”  

James has been the primary returner this season, averaging 7.9 yards per punt return and 22.9 yards for each kick return. That shiftiness makes him a great candidate to imitate Jackson, but James knows that those are big shoes to fill. 

“Just [going to] be myself,” James said. “He’s a one-of-a-kind, so you can only be yourself. I’m already a dynamic player, so just the more dynamic I can be.”  

Jackson is quite a bit larger than James, who is nearly 30 pounds lighter and five inches shorter than the Baltimore signal-caller. Still, the wideout’s history will serve him well as he takes on his new role for the week. 


"I was 80-percent run and 20-percent pass,” James said of his high school quarterback days. “It’s going to work for today because that’s kind of what they do now. They run a lot. So I’m expecting to run, continue to run. It’s going to be interesting." 

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Jimmy Garoppolo thought the choice was appropriate -- as long as James can get the ball out. 

“We’ll see how he can throw,” Garoppolo said with a smile. “I know Richie is athletic as can be. I think he’s a leftie, so we’ll see how he can throw it today.”