SANTA CLARA -- Running back Marcus Lattimore might be way ahead of schedule in his return from a dislocated right knee and three torn ligaments sustained in November.
Now, the 49ers want to do away with the schedule.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers will encourage a slower rehabilitation without any timetable after investing a fourth-round draft pick Saturday on the former South Carolina star. Typically, draft-eligible players coming off injuries attempt to speed up their recovery to impress NFL teams. Now, Lattimore does not have to impress anyone.
"We're going to slow things down for him physically," Harbaugh said. "I love his mental approach to it -- the aggressive mental approach that he's taken though this whole process. But we're going to slow the aggressive physical down and make sure Marcus is going to be 100 percent healthy before he's out there on the field. I told him that (and) shared that with his mother (Yolanda Smith).
"If he doesn't play this year, then he doesn't play this year. I think if anybody can overcome what he's been through, it's him."
Lattimore tore his left ACL while downfield blocking in a 2011 game. In October, he sustained a dislocated right knee and three torn ligaments on a running play against Tennessee.
After rushing for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, those injuries limited Lattimore to just 16 games over his final two seasons. He finished his career with 2,677 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns, while adding 74 career receptions for 767 yards and three touchdowns.
"(He's a) unique player, unique person," Harbaugh said. "Can't say enough about the mental toughness this man has displayed. Nothing gets him down. He's positive. Extremely hard-working.
"We're betting that his physical athleticism, his approach, his attitude, the way his work ethic that he'll be able to overcome the setback he had last fall with the injury to the knee."
The 49ers are in no rush to get Lattimore onto the field because of a roster that includes Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Anthony Dixon and Jewel Hampton -- each of whom was on the 49ers' 53-man roster last season.
When asked if it would be best to sit Lattimore out for the entire season, Harbaugh answered, "It's not what I want, it's what's prudent."