HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- Running back LaMichael James is stuck in the bench-warmer role where he also spent most of his 2012 rookie season with the 49ers.

"Yeah, it feels like it all over again," James said Thursday. "I'm trying to get better on a really good team."

James has been a healthy scratch the past two games after seeing spot duty in wins over the St. Louis Rams and Houston Texans. He said his playing chances remain a mystery for when the 49ers play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium.

"It's just a numbers game," James said. "If you look at the situation we're in, Kendall (Hunter) doesn't get many carries, and we've got defensive linemen hurt, so we've got to carry an extra one. I've just got to be a team player.

"The writing's on the wall. You know the situation. I'm a professional now, and know I've got to take it."

James was one of the best players in Oregon's history -- the school's all-time rushing and touchdown leader -- and he finished third as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2010.

He figured to emerge this season as a punt returner, a role that instead has exclusively belonged to Kyle Williams, who's averaged 5.7 yards on 10 returns and made 19 fair catches.

Asked if he could soon get a shot as a punt returner, James replied: "Kyle's a great returner. He gets a lot of stuff because of the fair catches, but a lot of time he's forced to fair catch. He does a great job for the team. He doesn't turn the ball over, so big 'ups' to him."

  • As luxurious as The Grove resort has been this week, the 49ers are moving out Friday to practice at a rugby field closer to London. Linebacker Patrick Willis wasn't fond of The Grove's field, stating: "It's soggy and slippery, everything a guy trying to get over a groin (injury) doesn't need."

    The 49ers will practice Friday at Saracens Rugby Club's Allianz Park in the London borough of Barnet. They'll also move to a London hotel.

  • Everyone practiced Thursday, including the quartet that missed Wednesday's drills: defensive linemen Justin Smith (shoulder), Ray McDonald (biceps) and Glenn Dorsey (hamstring) and wide receiver Jon Baldwin (illness). Linebacker Ahmad Brooks and wide receiver Mario Manningham came out a tad tardy to practice but appeared fine.

    Smith said his shoulder has felt "all right" the past couple games, adding: "Hopefully it'll get better during the bye week. Just skipping padded practices (on Wednesdays) has helped."

  • Cornerback Eric Wright is working into the defensive rotation, at least in practice, as the 49ers evaluate when to take him off the reserve/nonfootball-injury/illness list.

    "Obviously he's not comfortable in the system yet, but when he kind of grasps it, he'll grow by leaps and bounds quickly," defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said of Wright, who last week took scout-team snaps.

    For more on the 49ers, see Cam Inman's Hot Read blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/49ers. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/CamInman.