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:
LaMichael James suffered a neck injury on that kickoff return. He is listed as questionable— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) January 20, 2014
Bleacher Report injury expert Will Carroll weighed in, expressing how brutal the hit James sustained from Seahawks special teams ace Ricardo Lockette was:
LaMichael James' hit was one of the worst looking I've seen. Saw the helmet pulled off and thought guy had twisted his head.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) January 20, 2014
Here is a look at the play as it happened, with James being twisted by the helmet to the CenturyLink Field turf:
However, despite the scary nature of the play, James returned to the game as a kick returner (via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee):
LaMichael James (neck) is back for the kickoff. Guard Mike Iupati (ankle) is questionable to return.— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) January 20, 2014
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.