SANTA CLARA – Second-round pick LaMichael James, who has not played this season, spoke in the 49ers locker room Monday afternoon about his development. Here’s what he said.
Q: You haven’t played yet this season. You didn’t play much your first year at the University of Oregon, either. Have the two experiences felt similar?
JAMES: It’s the exact same thing. I went to Oregon and I had to work my way up – from the scout team, running plays each and every day and really not expecting to play (in the games). And then you get your opportunity and you have to go out and prove that you can help the team win. Right now I’m just learning. I have great players in front of me. Frank Gore – that’s one of the best running backs out there – and we have Brandon, and we have Kendall. They’re all really good. I learn a lot from those guys, just like I learned a lot from LeGarrette (Blount) at Oregon.
Q: I’m sure you have a huge fan base from college that’s impatient to see you play. Have you picked up on that from twitter?
JAMES: Oh yeah. I hear it all the time, even from the fans here. But my teammates, they keep me up, tell me to be patient and that my time is coming. That’s the only thing you can do – keep being patient and keep playing the game. I don’t know the game fully like Frank or anybody who’s been here. I’m still learning. I think that’s key for me – to learn.
Q: At one point when you were a freshman at Oregon you wanted to transfer somewhere closer to home. Is this different? Do you not have that kind of emotion? Is there more frustration?
JAMES: I’m not really frustrated. I’m competitive, so I want to be out there playing with the guys and helping the team win. I don’t look down and say, “Hey, I’m a horrible player.” I think I can play with anybody out there – I really do believe that – but at the same time I do need to learn. I think that’s big. Learn the NFL game – I think that’s a huge step for me. I need to get that down pat first before I go out there and try to make a fool of myself.
Q: You said that Frank Gore is one of the best running backs in the game. Is that something you’ve concluded these past seven weeks, or did you have that assessment already?
JAMES: No, I never really watched the NFL when I was in college or high school. I had to make that assessment when I got here. He’s not lazy. He comes out to practice and he works hard. He always finishes runs. He’s a complete pro. I just want to model myself after him, try to pick up some of the queues so one day I can be a great running back in this league.
Q: He’s got good vision as a runner. Have you been able to pick up on that? Have you learned that from him?
JAMES: I’m learning everything from him. I’m taking it all in. When I get my opportunity, I think I’ll be just fine.
Q: Are you learning the return stuff, too – punts and kickoffs?
JAMES: Oh yeah. That stuff is pretty easy. Catching punts in the wind in San Francisco is a little different, but other than that, I think I’m pretty good. I catch them here. I stay 15 minutes after practice every day with Brad Seely. I think I’ve made great strides in that department.
Q: Would you say your biggest task is just learning an NFL offense?
JAMES: Yeah, and learning how to be a pro. One guy might not be the fastest, but he’s smart and he knows where you’re going to be by your eyes. One of the linebackers told me they knew where I was going to be because I looked. They could just tell. Those are the little things I can pick up on to be a better professional.
Q: Have you been surprised by the speed of the NFL game?
JAMES: I think everybody’s fast, but I think the speed of the game wasn’t that much for me. It’s more aggressive, yeah, but as far as the speed – playing in Oregon’s offense, running around all the time – I think that helped me out with the speed of the game.