SANTA CLARA -- Contract extensions have been the 49ers' offseason theme -- aside from off-field issues. Colin Kaepernick and Bruce Miller got paid. Vernon Davis, Alex Boone and surely others await their extensions.
Kendall Hunter, the 49ers' No. 2 running back since his 2011 rookie year, isn't grandstanding for a new deal even though he's entering the final season of his contract.
"You can't think about that," Hunter said after practice last week. "I just want to play football and help the team."
Hunter, who ran for a career-low 358 yards last season, has fiercer competition than ever to remain as Frank Gore's primary backup.
Carlos Hyde is the hotshot drafted in the second round. Marcus Lattimore is medically cleared to return from a 2012 knee injury. LaMichael James is desperately trying to get reps. Even Jewel Hampton is bucking for a promotion from the practice squad.
"It's just like a family, and now we have to push each other," Hunter said of the running back corps. "It's competition every year. There's always competition."
Hunter said he is 100 percent recovered from a torn Achilles that ended his 2012 season in a Nov. 25 win at New Orleans.
Did he think about that injury, however, when he returned in 2013 and saw his average dip to 4.6 yards per carry (from 5.2 in 2012)?
"You'd be wary about it, but when you're out there playing, it goes away. You don't think about it when you get the ball," Hunter said.
Hunter had only 78 carries last regular season, only six more than his injury-shortened 2012 season. He had 112 carries for a career-high 473 yards as a rookie, then followed with 371 yards in 2012 before his injury.
To enhance his value, Hunter must improve as a pass protector going through his progressions.
"Whenever they call my name, I'm ready, whatever they want me to do," said Hunter, who will make $645,000 in base salary this year.