The San Francisco 49ers are struggling to field a healthy backfield.
James sustained the injury in a blitz pickup drill early in practice going against inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite. The NFL Network is reporting James will miss a month.
It's the second-straight time James has suffered an injury early in the season. In 2013, James sustained an MCL injury that kept him out until Week 4.
It's also the second time in his football career James has dislocated an elbow. He suffered a severe dislocation of his right elbow with Oregon in October of 2011 during his final collegiate season - although he missed just two games.
With Hunter out for the year and James now likely sidelined for much of training camp, the 49ers deep group of running backs has just two healthy backs behind Frank Gore: rookie Carlos Hyde and former practice squader Jewel Hampton.
Marcus Lattimore continues to work out on the side field during practice, but remains on the active/non-football injury list. Before practice Sunday, Jim Harbaugh did not offer a timetable on Lattimore's return.
"There’s a percentage that it needs to get better," Harbaugh said of Lattimore. "As I watched him through the offseason you could see it getting better every single day. To ballpark a percentage, that would be hard to do. But, it’s not yet 100 and I say that more from a physical aspect than from a mental. When it gets to that point then he has the best chance to compete out there."
Hyde, Lattimore and Hampton are looking for their first NFL carries in a regular season game. Hampton received 37 preseason carries last year. San Francisco will likely be active in looking for a running back on waiver wire.
Following Hunter's injury, James knew his workload could increase on offense and not just as the team's primary kick and punt returner.
"I know everybody’s looking at me now," James said. "I’m going to go out there and I’m going to work hard."
The 49ers don't have an experienced punt returner behind James on the 90-man roster. The most likely candidate to assume those duties would be rookie receiver Bruce Ellington, who has yet to fully participate in practice since suffering an ankle injury while away from the team following OTAs.
Ellington returned just three punts during his final collegiate season at South Carolina. His only participation thus far through four training camp practices has come fielding punts and kicks.
The regular season kicks off Sept. 7 in Dallas, exactly six weeks from the day James suffered the injury.
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