LaMichael James Injury: Updates on 49ers RB's Neck and Return

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJanuary 19, 2014

San Francisco 49ers' LaMichael James fumbles as he is hit by Seattle Seahawks' Ricardo Lockette (83) on a kick off during the first half of the NFL football NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, in Seattle. The 49ers recovered the fumble. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

San Francisco 49ers running back LaMichael James exited the NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks with a neck injury.   

ESPN's John Clayton reported the news and noted that James' return to the game is questionable:

Bleacher Report injury expert Will Carroll weighed in, expressing how brutal the hit James sustained from Seahawks special teams ace Ricardo Lockette was:

Here is a look at the play as it happened, with James being twisted by the helmet to the CenturyLink Field turf:

GIF courtesy of Bleacher Report

However, despite the scary nature of the play, James returned to the game as a kick returner (via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee):

James is a speedy, change-of-pace back who is also dynamic as a returner. Losing him for any extended period would have robbed San Francisco of a valuable, versatile contributor who is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

With only 10 games played in the regular season and 14 total touches from scrimmage, though, this team has had success regardless of whether or not James has been in the lineup.

The physical nature of this third matchup between NFC West rivals of the year should see the Niners lean on bigger bruisers in the backfield for success, headlined by 30-year-old veteran Frank Gore.