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SANTA CLARA Adidas Vladimir Tarasenko Jersey , Calif. (AP) — Richard Sherman has been around the NFL long enough that playing in exhibition games might not seem to be of critical importance.

But after going more than nine months without game action following a season-ending Achilles tendon injury and joining a new team with the San Francisco 49ers, Sherman is eager to get back on the field.

He said Wednesday he plans to play in San Francisco’s exhibition game at Indianapolis on Saturday in his first action for the 49ers at cornerback after spending his first seven seasons playing for NFC West rival Seattle.

“It’s important just for a defensive continuity standpoint, just knowing where people are going to be on game day,” he said. “You don’t want the first time you deal with communicating with somebody else be with live bullets out there. You want to be out there and get the communication down if someone isn’t listening or looking and get those tweaks out of the way.”

Sherman had hoped to play earlier this preseason as he worked his way back from the Achilles tendon injury, but he strained his hamstring early in training camp.

Sherman felt ready to play last week, but coach Kyle Shanahan held him out to be cautious. Sherman took time after joint practices last week in Houston to get extra work against Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins and has no worries about his health now.

“I’m not really concerned with how that will respond,” he said. “I’m more concerned about my game shape and making sure I can still go every single play because I haven’t played (since November).”

Sherman has faced questions about what kind of player he can be at age 30 coming off a significant injury that led to his release by the Seahawks. Those only grew louder during the opening week of training camp when video came out of Sherman getting badly beaten deep by sprinter Marquise Goodwin. Coach Kyle Shanahan used that video as a teaching tool, praising Sherman to the rest of the team for his aggressiveness and willingness to test out his injured leg against one of the faster receivers in the league during practice.

Sherman said wasn’t bothered by outside criticism and appreciated Shanahan’s support, comparing practice to writing a “rough draft” and saying his product will be polished by the time games start next month.

“You’re allowed to make mistakes in practice,” he said. “You’re allowed to get beat and stumble, because then you figure out what works and what doesn’t work. If you find something that works you keep using it and put it into your bag for game day.”

Sherman also criticized the NFL’s new rule that prohibits players from lowering the helmet to make contact anywhere on an opponent. The 49ers have been called for three personal fouls through two preseason games for violating the rule.

“It’s an idiotic rule so there’s no need to go down that road,” Sherman said when asked if he understood the rule. “There’s no way you can tackle and play football. I could tackle like that if I was standing still, got on my knees, no one was moving and I was tackling bags or something. But to ask you to do that at full speed?”

NOTES: The 49ers signed DT Chris Jones to a one-year deal. Jones started the final six games of 2016 for San Francisco before spending last year on IR. … Jones takes the place on the roster of DL Cedric Thornton, who announced his retirement at age 30.

— Darius James was pretty sure he was OK, even though he was sprawled face-first in the grass and his neck wouldn’t budge.

He wiggled his fingers and toes and had feeling in his arms and legs, giving the big offensive lineman some reassurance that he wasn’t paralyzed.

James was the starting right tackle for Auburn when his football career — and possibly much more — flashed before his eyes. It was Sept. 16, 2017, and the crowd of more than 80,000 packed into Jordan-Hare Stadium to watch the Tigers take on Mercer was silent.

“I actually was pretty scared out there because I couldn’t move my neck,” recalled James, who’s in camp this summer with the New York Jets. “When they rolled me over, I was good again.”

While blocking on a short run by Kamryn Pettway in the second quarter, James fell and teammate Mike Horton landed on James’ head. Doctors and trainers rushed out to treat James Patriots Jason McCourty Jersey , who showed no movement initially. His neck was stabilized before he was flipped onto a backboard, strapped down and lifted onto a stretcher.

“They were like, ‘Just in case. It’s all precautionary. Don’t be scared,'” James said. “So, I wasn’t as scared when they came out there and talked to me. But it was a scary moment when it happened because nothing like that ever happened to me.”

It turned out to be a severe spasm in James’ neck, and it was relieved through treatment and massages. He was taken to a hospital and released after an evaluation.

James was back on the field for Auburn a week later for the Tigers’ game at Missouri.

“I feel like injuries, obstacles, anything like that helps you be a better player because once something happens to you, people think it’s the end,” James said. “But, nah, you can still come back from all that stuff.

“I like to think of myself as somebody who comes back, know what I mean?”

James proved his resilience just over a month later when he went down with what appeared to be a serious leg injury at Arkansas. Again, he was surrounded by doctors and trainers — and carted off the field in front of nervous teammates.

“I was just like, ‘Ahh, it keeps happening again, man. Just something else to bounce back from.’ And I always bounce back.”

Sure enough, X-rays were negative and James returned in time to play in Auburn’s next game at Texas A&M two weeks later.

“Darius has had a rough ride,” said offensive lineman Austin Golson, who was James’ teammate at Auburn and is now his roommate during camp with the Jets. “Every time he got hurt, he’d get back up and fought to get better. He’s just worked his tail off to get where he is today.”

James grew up in Killeen, Texas, and was considered one of the top high school offensive linemen in the country despite only playing in two games as a senior because of injuries.

He flashed remarkable versatility as a five-star prospect — playing center, offensive tackle Authentic Taron Johnson Jersey , guard, defensive tackle and defensive end. Several scouting services rated him the No. 1 center in the country, while he was ranked as the top guard by another.

James ended up going to Texas and played in six games for the Longhorns during the 2014 season, including starts at right tackle against Baylor and Oklahoma. But he struggled and was pulled by coach Charlie Strong, and then James suffered a season-ending knee injury.

“I tore my ACL right before the OSU game and (Strong) was trying to bring some of his young people in and he said, ‘You can stay here and go to school or you can leave and play football,'” James recalled. “I thought it was the best opportunity for me to leave and play football.”

James transferred to Auburn and sat out a season, but then played in every game as a junior and senior — despite those two scary moments in his final year.

“The injuries I had, they weren’t that bad,” he said. “I came right back from them. I’m just ready to start this new journey.”

The 6-foot-4, 324-pound James signed with the Jets in May as an undrafted free agent. With New York, James faces a difficult path to stick on the active roster. There’s lots of competition for depth spots, and both he and Golson will need to have some standout performances in the preseason to impress coach Todd Bowles.

“We’ve been playing together for three years,” Golson said, “and hopefully we can keep it going, playing for the Jets.”

James has been used primarily at right tackle by the Jets during practice, but his versatility could help him. Bowles has typically kept backups who can be plugged in at various spots.

“It’s still early and I’m still feeling out the ropes,” James said, “figuring out where I fit in, figuring out how I’m supposed to play, figuring out the speed, the playbook. Everything’s going so fast and nobody’s waiting for you.

“To me, it’s fun because nobody else really gets this opportunity. You can’t take anything for granted.”


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