The San Francisco 49ers' deep running back group took a significant hit Friday afternoon.
After catching a pass in the right flat from backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert during 7-on-7 team drills in just the second training camp practice, Kendall Hunter's right leg gave way when he attempted to make a cut up field along the sideline.
Hunter tore his ACL as a result, according to multiple reports Saturday morning. His season is likely over.
Hunter, the team's No. 2 running back behind stalwart Frank Gore, figured to play a big role in San Francisco's running game. He compliments Gore by providing speed in bursts on outside runs while Gore is a natural bruiser between the tackles.
It's the second career-altering injury for Hunter, who tore an Achilles midway through the team's 2012 season when San Francisco went to the Super Bowl. In his absence LaMichael James received the majority of carries behind Gore.
James remains with the team, primarily as a the team's kick and punt returner. But the team will likely rely heavily on rookie second-round pick Carlos Hyde out of Ohio State. Hyde - who rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns in 11 games last season for the Buckeyes - was the third running back taken in the draft despite many believing he was the best back in the draft class.
The 49ers have drafted running backs in each of the last four seasons in Hunter, James, Marcus Lattimore and Hyde this year.
Lattimore remains on the active/non-football injury list while continuing to rehab his knee injury he suffered in 2012 at South Carolina. He practiced with the team during the offseason program, but was slowed by a hamstring injury. Given his injury history, the 49ers are doing everything they can to make sure he's completely healthy before allowing him to return to the field.
Gore, 31, is entering the last year of his three-year contract extension he signed in 2011. His future with the team beyond this season is very much in doubt given his advanced age and 2,187 career carries under his belt.
Gore told the media this week "One day, (the young running backs) are going to have this role. But while I'm here, I'm going to look at it as a challenge."
Gore is looking to register his fourth-straight 1,000-yard season. He's reached that mark in seven of his nine seasons in the league. Gore is third among active running backs with 9,967 career rushing yards.
Hunter - a fourth-round pick in 2011 - was entering the last year of his rookie contract. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in 43 games with the 49ers.
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