Newberry stepping on the gas

The big day came for Jeremy Newberry last week when, during the opening session of 49ers passing camp, he ran for the first time since undergoing reconstructive surgery on his left ankle in January. And the two-time Pro Bowl center didn't just run. He sprinted. "I ran 10 gasses and didn't have any trouble at all," Newberry said. "I felt fantastic." And he'll be running more this week as the Niners conduct their final spring minicamp.

Newberry is close to being fully recovered from a Jan. 27 operation during which team doctors grafted a cadaver's tendon into his ankle. He played in pain all last season with a completely torn ligament in the ankle.

The pain is gone now.

"I feel awesome right now, I really do," Newberry said. "Last week was the first time I ran (since surgery), and I had no trouble at all. It felt as good if not better than the other (ankle)."

The Niners are taking it slow with Newberry and his rehabilitation, since they see no point in pushing him back onto the field during spring sessions. Doctors made him wait until June to run on the ankle, though Newberry said he probably could have tested it before then.

"But because of the (complexity of the surgery), they wanted me to wait a little longer," Newberry said. "They drilled all the way through both my tibia and fibula, so they wanted to let all that heal up and solidify before I started jarring on it. But now it's time to get that going."

Newberry - honored by teammates in 2003 as the winner of the Bobb McKittrick Award, given annually to the 49ers offensive lineman who best represents the courage, intensity and sacrifice displayed by McKittrick during his 21 years as the team's esteemed offensive line coach - says he will attempt to run a couple of days this week at the team's final spring minicamp, which begins today and runs through Thursday.

But he'll wait until training camp begins July 30 to participate in practice and take part in full team drills.

"I'll slowly get back into running and change-of-direction stuff before I start playing," Newberry said. "I'm probably not ready to (take part in minicamp), to tell you the truth, just because I haven't started changing direction yet and doing things with people falling around and people flying around you.

"I would love to play if my body was ready to do it. But I've still got, probably, another month before I think I'll be ready to play football again. I haven't done any of the stuff necessary to get yourself in shape to play football. But I definitely want to run more (this) week and get back close to playing."

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