Kendall Hunter looks strong in return to field

All week long, Kendall Hunter peppered fellow San Francisco

running back Anthony Dixon about how he looked in practice – how

fast did he look?

No more questions necessary after the burst Hunter showed Sunday

night, a darting 15-yard gain during the 49ers’ third series of the

first quarter that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass from Colin

Kaepernick to Quinton Patton on the way to a 34-14 preseason win

against Minnesota.

”He’s looking quick. He was showing that burst up in the hole

during the week and he was coming back to me, `How I look, how I

look, do I look fast?”’ Dixon said.

”I said, `Yeah, bro, you got it, baby, you’re good, I can’t

wait to see you go.’ We all rally around each other and play (for)

each other. That was what he was asking me all week. I saw it and I

was expecting him to have a good game.”

Indeed, Hunter is looking plenty swift – not to mention fresh –

after working tirelessly to return following surgery on a torn left

Achilles tendon that ended his season in late November last

year.

Does Hunter feel quicker on his feet after spending more than

half a year rehabilitating and waiting?

”We’ll just see,” he said with a smile. ”A lot of guys came

to me saying, `You look faster.’ I think they haven’t seen me in a

while.”

It was hard enough not to be on the field with the NFC

champions, and even more difficult to miss playing in the Super

Bowl.

Only cleared for full practice activity on Aug. 10, Hunter had

three carries for 13 yards in his first preseason appearance

against the Vikings – yet just being part of 13 snaps at

Candlestick Park meant more than the results for Frank Gore’s

likely backup.

”It felt good just to be back out there,” Hunter said. ”I

feel real good, just to be back out there and able to play again.

Everything’s starting to come back. I’ve got to give it up to the

offensive linemen. They made a hole for me and let me get that

15.”

Hunter, a fourth-round draft pick in 2011 out of Oklahoma State

who turns 25 next month, had 72 carries for 371 yards and two

touchdowns last season in an increased role as the team’s

second-leading rusher behind Gore.

Then, all of the momentum he had gained was halted when he got

hurt at New Orleans on Nov. 25.

In spite of the injury and missing the final five regular-season

games, he still wound up ranked third on the team in yards rushing

and sixth in the NFL with a 5.2-yards-per-carry average before

going on season-ending injured reserve.

The 5-foot-7, 199-pound Hunter tried to remain upbeat, and

having a jokester such as Dixon around certainly didn’t hurt.

Dixon had no doubts Hunter would return to his top form – and,

now, they both want to keep a good thing going right into the Sept.

8 season opener at home against Green Bay. It will be a rematch of

the NFC division playoffs last January at Candlestick Park.

Dixon rooted for a big run by Hunter in his preseason debut.

”We were talking about it before it happened,” Dixon said. ”I

said, `The only thing you’ve got to do is just get that first lick

and you’re going to be good.’ I guess once he got it, he was

good.”

Coach Jim Harbaugh noted how Hunter’s teammates are talking up

his speed and how he might be faster than before he got hurt.

”He looked like it, yeah,” Harbaugh said. ”He’s looked like

it in practice as well. A lot of the fellas have been talking about

how he seems faster. So, I can’t say that I disagree with

that.”

Notes: Quarterback Scott Tolzien was among five players waived

Monday, a day after Harbaugh announced Colt McCoy had earned the

job as Kaepernick’s backup. With Tolzien out of the mix, newly

signed veteran Seneca Wallace and rookie B.J. Daniels are left

competing to be the third QB. … The other departed players are RB

D.J. Harper, LB Joe Holland, G Al Netter and P Colton Schmidt. The

moves left San Francisco’s roster at 85 players, with 10 more cuts

to make by Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org