The Niners will end the month with veteran starter Garrison Hearst and rookie backup Kevan Barlow producing identical numbers at the position. Each has rushed for 58 yards on 18 carries.
That peculiar statistic can be attributed to the fact Hearst, the starter, suffered a concussion in the second quarter of last week's loss to the Rams and was held out in the second half. That allowed Barlow to take over at the position and rush for a team-high 49 yards on 13 carries. Barlow had just five carries in the Sept. 9 opener against Atlanta.
"I see us using the same rotation, starting Garrison and working in Kevan Barlow," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said. "That's where we are right now until it's clear that we should be playing one much more than the other. I think that's in Garrison's best interest from a health standpoint, and it's in Kevan Barlow's best interest to play him as he's ready, keep him fresh, keep him confident, get him 30 snaps a game or whatever the number ends up. And then develop him as we go."
Hearst was held out of practice Wednesday, but Mariucci said he would remain the team's starting tailback when the Niners meet the New York Jets on Monday night. The coach also said the team is not disappointed in Hearst's progress in his return from a career-threatening ankle injury that forced him to miss the past two seasons.
"Is he like he was in '98? No. How could he be?" Mariucci said, referring to Hearst's last season in action, when he rushed for a team-record 1,570 yards and was named to the Pro Bowl. Hearst broke his left ankle in a playoff game that season and later developed a rare form of bone necrosis.
"Is he starting to get there? Yes," Mariucci continued. "He is working his way back and gaining confidence in his ankle and getting a feel for what we're doing again. He's going to get better and more comfortable as the season progresses. I anticipate, provided he stays healthy, that he'll get better as the season goes."
One thing Mariucci didn't anticipate is that his quarterback would be his leading rusher entering October. Jeff Garcia leads the team with 83 yards rushing on 12 scrambles.
"I hope he rushes for some good yards this year, but I hope he's not our leading rusher," Mariucci said of Garcia, who rushed for 414 yards and four touchdowns last year. "But if your quarterback gets you 400 yards rushing, that equates to a lot of first downs in a season. If you have a guy that can do that, gain bonus yards, it's just as good as completions."