SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Alfred Morris knew the right opportunity would come, even as training camps opened and he remained home in Texas.
Once the San Francisco 49ers called, Morris didn’t take long to get comfortable with his new team.
With a stellar performance in Saturday’s exhibition at Indianapolis, the veteran running back appears to have earned a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said Morris may not even suit up for Thursday’s exhibition finale against the Los Angeles Chargers, a strong indication that the staff already views Morris as a regular-season contributor.
Patience paid off for the two-time Pro Bowler.
“I wasn’t panicking,” Morris said of the wait to find a job. “It wasn’t if I would be on a team, it was when. I had teams reaching out, even in OTAs, but I didn’t think it would be a good fit so I turned it down. I knew I would get an opportunity. It was just waiting for the right opportunity.”
The 29-year-old Morris carried 17 times for 84 yards in Saturday’s 23-17 loss to the Colts, displaying a physical style of running that should fit well with San Francisco’s offense. Starting running back Jerick McKinnon is known more for speed and shiftiness, and the 5-foot-10, 222-pound Morris can provide a bruising change of pace.
McKinnon and second-string running back Matt Breida have missed the majority of the preseason with injuries, which provided the opening for the 49ers to sign Morris on Aug. 13.
McKinnon (strained calf) and Breida (separated shoulder) are expected to be available for the Sept. 9 opener at Minnesota.
Shanahan, who’s familiar with Morris when both were with the Washington Redskins, liked what he saw Saturday.
“It was just good to see him do it live,” Shanahan said. “I thought we blocked very well, so we gave him an opportunity to do it. . But we had a couple 3rd-and-1’s where I thought we missed a guy (blocking) in the backfield and he got hit behind the line of scrimmage but still was able to get us a yard. Those are the ones that allow you to stay on the field and keep running plays.”
There isn’t a ton of intrigue left before the 49ers cut down to their final 53-man roster. One battle is at right guard between Mike Person and Josh Garnett, but when asked about Person, Shanahan said, “It’s his job to lose right now.”
Shanahan confirmed that backup quarterback C.J. Beathard would start Thursday against the Chargers. Jimmy Garoppolo and several other starters are expected to be held out to avoid injury.
When training camp began, Morris was at home in Cross Roads, Texas, a town of less than 1,500 people. He relished the extra time with his wife, Lindsey, their 3-year-old son, Josiah, and their 1-year-old daughter, Grace. At times, Morris said, he had to calm his wife’s nerves about when he might get a call from an NFL team.
“I had a peace, honestly,” he said. “At times my wife was like, ‘Well, what’s going on?’ And I’m like, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’”
NOTES: Linebacker Reuben Foster (concussion) and running back Joe Williams (ribs) didn’t practice Wednesday, although Shanahan wouldn’t rule either out for Thursday. Foster would have to clear concussion protocol. . Tight end George Kittle (shoulder) returned to practice in a limited capacity. . The 49ers signed undrafted running back Ja’Quan Gardner to a three-year deal Tuesday and waived safety Chanceller James.