Marcus Lattimore is eager to take the next step.
The rookie running back remains on the non-football injury list, but he's optimistic he'll soon be cleared to join his San Francisco 49ers teammates in practice. The Niners have until Tuesday to greenlight a three-week window that allows players on the NFI list to practice.
"It would be important to have my mind ready for the next year -- real excited about it," Lattimore said, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Lattimore was felled by a catastrophic knee injury in his final season at South Carolina, suffering a dislocated right kneecap and three torn knee ligaments during a game on Oct. 27, 2012. The Niners took a fourth-round flier on Lattimore, who was seen as one of the nation's top backs before going down.
Lattimore said he's running at full speed and making cuts like a healthy NFL running back. He believes the time away from the field has allowed him to sharpen his knowledge of the game.
"I know so much about the game in the last four months, (more) than I've learned in the last 18 years," he said. "So it's been big."
Lattimore's knee injury was similar to the injury suffered by Willis McGahee during his final college game with Miami in 2003. McGahee sat out his rookie season, then enjoyed a long NFL career. The Niners hope history repeats itself with Lattimore.