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Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Is Jerick McKinnon back to his old self? ‘I’d just say I’m better,’ says the 49ers RB

Sep 4, 2020 at 4:03 PM--

Running back Jerick McKinnon hasn't taken a meaningful snap since January 21, 2018, when he was with the Minnesota Vikings. Less than two months later, he was signing a new contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

At the time, Kyle Shanahan had big plans for McKinnon. The versatile running back, who was a threat carrying and catching the football, was to be a featured piece of the coach's offense.

"We brought Jet here for a reason a few years ago," Shanahan recently said on KNBR. "And we went into that year thinking about adding a receiver in free agency. All the receivers out there, we didn't really think fit the role of what they were all getting paid.

"And we thought there was a running back, who, at the time, we thought could come in here and be our starting running back, but more importantly, be a guy that we got the ball to a lot in the pass game."

McKinnon has yet to step onto the football field for a regular-season game with the 49ers. An ACL injury ended his 2018 season before it started. A setback eliminated his 2019 campaign.

Now, two years later, McKinnon is eager to prove doubters wrong.

Mark Willard of KNBR asked McKinnon on Thursday how he is feeling. Does the running back feel as fast as he once did?

"I haven't ran the 40, but I feel fast, and I feel quick, of course," McKinnon responded.

McKinnon has impressed during training camp. 49ers linebackers, at times, have struggled to keep up with the running back during practices. And the Niners have some pretty good linebackers in Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and Dre Greenlaw, so that is saying something.

Does that mean McKinnon is back to his old self? Is he once again the running back that prompted the 49ers to offer a massive contract? McKinnon doesn't feel he is that same player.

"I'd just say I'm better," McKinnon said. "I've always been self-motivated. I've never really had to have anybody get me going. I just wake up every morning, I look back on everything I've been through the past two years, another switch turns on. Coming into camp, all those things over the past two years have just been driving motivators for me leading up to the season."

Teammates have praised McKinnon at every opportunity. Right tackle Mike McGlinchey is excited to see the running back finally step onto the football field and contribute this season.

"I think he's going to add a tremendous amount of things to our offense," McGlinchey told reporters on Thursday. "I think he's going to be able to be extremely versatile in the position that he's in. He obviously has one of the great masterminds in the game to help him expose all of his talents and all of that stuff in Kyle.

"I know how excited the coaching staff is to get him back and to be able to have him as a tool and a weapon for us. ... It's going to be an awesome thing to see him finally in action for the 49ers, and it's only going to help us, hopefully, win more games."

You can listen to the entire conversation with McKinnon below.

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