As Jerick McKinnon came out to practice Tuesday, he thumped his chest and let out a whoop.
Finally, after suffering a torn knee ligament in a training camp injury just before the start of the regular season almost a year ago, the running back was wearing his No. 28 again, along with helmet, pads – and no knee brace. He was activated off the physically unable to perform list.
The former standout of the Minnesota Vikings, who signed with the 49ers in the 2018 offseason, looked eager to get back to work.
His tweet on Monday: "11 months 5 days let’s get back to what we do now!"
The loss of McKinnon, 27, was a blow to the 49ers offense, which was designed to utilize him as both a ball carrier and accomplished receiver out of the backfield. The 49ers gave McKinnon a four-year, $30 million deal to come to the Bay Area.
Now, McKinnon still has three years left, and could be part of one of the NFL’s deepest and most versatile backfields, with former Falcons star Tevin Coleman (signed this spring), Matt Breida (who emerged in 2018 as McKinnon’s replacement) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Raheem Mostert (a strong special teams player) and Jeffery Wilson also will be in the mix.
McKinnon, known as "Jet" for his quickness, will likely be brought along slowly, with the team intent on having him ready and fully healthy by the start of the regular season opener.
But general manager John Lynch has no doubts he’ll be a plus for the offense in 2019.
"'Jet' is a guy that you give him something and he’s going to do that and 10 other things,” Lynch told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner at the start of training camp.
Lynch said McKinnon had to be held out of the start of camp because of some knee discomfort, but the team isn’t worried about it.
"We’re not just going to throw him back up in there after we rest him for a week," said Lynch. "So, ramp him back up so that he’s ready to hit full stride, but he’s had a tremendous rehab."
McKinnon isn’t expected to play in the 49ers’ exhibition opener Saturday against the Dallas Cowboys at Levi’s Stadium.