The winner to inject life into the NFL’s worst punt-return unit is something of a surprise.
Mike Singletary announced today that Ted Ginn, who was expected to only handle kickoff returns this season, will return punts Sunday in Seattle.
“It will be Ginn,” Singletary said with certainty. “But it could be Phillip Adams, too. We just have to think about it a little more.”
Singletary delivered the last two lines with a broad smile on his face, suggesting he held out some hope of keeping the Seahawks guessing.
But Ginn, who had one punt return in the preseason, confirmed his role moments later in the locker room. He also suggested he was always the man for the job, despite much speculation over the spot during training camp.
“It’s kind of been in stone,” he said. “They just wanted to try some other guys out and see what we had. But for the most part I believed that it was my job.”
Actually, Singletary didn’t sound like he was leaning toward Ginn less than two weeks ago. On Aug. 30, he said, “I would envision Ted Ginn as the kickoff guy, not the punt, not for right now, and that could change.”
And it did. In part, because Ginn has returned 36 punts (8.7 yard average) in his three-year NFL career.
Adams, a rookie, appeared to have won the job after an impressive preseason. Adams averaged 25.8 yards on six returns and had an 83-yard touchdown against the Raiders. But Singletary conceded he felt uneasy about throwing a rookie into the fray. Adams returned 17 punts during his four-year career at South Carolina State.
“You can have a great preseason and they get in a real game and it’s too big for them,” Singletary said. “So we’ll wait and see how it looks, but I’m excited to see what’s there.”
And so is Ginn, who returned 12 punts the past two years in Miami.
“It’s not new to me,” he said. “It’s not something I can’t do. It’s just something I didn’t do the last couple years. But it’s still in my heart. It’s still something I like to do. It’s another way for me to get the ball.”
The Niners averaged 4.4 yards a punt return last year, ranking last in the NFL, and were one of four teams to not have a punt return of at least 20 yards.
In response, the search for a punt returner has been a source of intense interest this summer. But if Ginn, or Adams, or injured rookie Kyle Williams (turf toe) isn’t the answer, there is some solace in last year’s stats.
The Super Bowl champion Saints ranked 31st in the NFL in punt returns (4.6 yards) and the AFC champion Colts ranked 28th (5.2).
• OT Alex Boone, OT Barry Sims and CB Tramaine Brock were declared early inactives. CB Will James (ankle) is probable and LB Diyral Briggs (concussion) is probable.
• Seattle injury report: OT Russell Okung (ankle) is out. G Chester Pitts (knee) is questionable and DE Raheem Brock (back) and TE Anthony McCoy (ankle) are probable.
• The Seahawks are expected to start Tyler Polumbus at left tackle. Polumbus, in his third year, was released by the Broncos on Aug. 24, claimed by the Lions two days later and traded to Seattle for an undisclosed 2012 draft pick on Aug. 31. Seattle coach Pete Carroll referred to Polumbus as “Trey” earlier this week.