© Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
SANTA CLARA — With recent injuries hampering the running back room, Kyle Shanahan called up one of his former workhorses.
The 49ers plan to sign six-year veteran Alfred Morris, Shanahan announced to media members Monday afternoon. Pending a physical, Morris, 29, will join the 49ers prior to their two practices in Houston before they play the Texans in their second 2018 preseason game Saturday evening.
“It’s not flashy, but he runs extremely hard,” Shanahan told reporters. “He’s very reliable. You block it for zero (yards), and he can usually get at least one. He’s a hard-nosed runner who you can keep handing the ball off to.”
The 49ers lost their top two backs to injuries in the past four days. Jerick McKinnon suffered a calf strain during Sunday’s practice and will be sidelined for at least a week. Matt Breida separated his shoulder in Thursday’s preseason opener and is not expected to play until Week 1, according to the 49ers.
McKinnon and Breida are entrenched as the top two backs, but the No. 3 role is still being decided. That competition features Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert, Jeremy McNichols, undrafted rookie Jeff Wilson — and now Morris.
“I told him I waited so long to invite him because I wouldn’t have invited him unless I believed he had a chance to make the team,” Shanahan said. “I do believe he has a chance to make the team here. And that’s all Alfred wanted: a chance to compete.”
Morris’ physical, rugged running style is different than the dynamic, shiftiness of McKinnon and Breida. But Morris enjoyed the two best seasons of his career in Washington with Shanahan as its offensive coordinator.
During his rookie season in 2012, he compiled 1,613 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, both of which finished second in the league behind Adrian Peterson. Morris’ rushing total was the third-most productive rookie season for any running back in NFL history. The following season, Morris compiled 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns.
Shanahan departed for the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator job in 2014. Morris’ career has steadily declined ever since.
He averaged 912.2 yards in the following two seasons, his last with the Redskins. He spent the past two seasons of his career with Dallas, where he served a backup role. He averaged 92 rushes for 395 yards during those years. He did, however, average 4.8 yards per game last season, the most since his rookie year. The Cowboys did not re-sign him at the end of the 2017 campaign.