The 49ers don’t have a proven punt returner who is healthy. They also don’t have more than one backup inside linebacker on their roster. But they did have some good news today. It appears rookie Kyle Williams, a possible cure for the punt-return woes, will play in his first NFL game and inside linebacker Takeo Spikes will most likely play in career game No. 174 on Sunday.
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.
A lot of people are pretty excited about the 49ers’ defense, despite a lackluster showing against the Raiders on Saturday. In 13 days, it’s hoped, Patrick Willis and cohorts will force the Seattle Seahawks into a succession of three-and-outs.
The question is who will be back to receive the Seahawks’ punts after those defensive stands. Here are the most likely candidates:
Ginn has returned 36 punts in his three-year NFL career. He’s clearly the experienced hand(s) here. But this is what coach Mike Singletary said on the topic today: “I would envision Ted Ginn as the kickoff guy, not the punt, not for right now, and that could change.”
I got my answer.
As I wrote here yesterday, I was eager to ask Mike Singletary why Bobby Guillory got all the punt returns (six, including a fair catch) and kickoff returns (two) against the Vikings on Sunday.
Here is what the coach had to say in response today: “We brought the kid in. He’s a quick-twitch guy out here. He caught some punts and I just felt, you know what, why don’t we let him take it? Let’s see how he does, let’s see how he handles it. It was a lot to put on a young kid, but I thought he did a pretty decent job of it.”
Mike Singletary talked for about 11 minutes after the 49ers beat the Vikings 15-10 last night. I sneaked in a question or two, like most of the other reporters in the interview room at Candlestick Park.
But the Niners cut short the press session before I could ask another question: Why didn’t Ted Ginn or Dominique Zeigler or anyone who isn’t named Bobby Guillory get any punt or kickoff returns?
Is Joe Nedney hurt or isn’t he?
The veteran NFL kicker hadn’t booted a ball in a live drill all summer, but that didn’t necessarily strike me as odd. In my years covering the Raiders, Sebastian Janikowski did a lot more standing around than kicking in training camp, and he and punter Shane Lechler were always first ones off the field.
After Nedney sat out the game at Indianapolis on Sunday, though, coach Mike Singletary intimated he was nursing some sort of injury. Yesterday, Singletary said, “I think Joe is fine. I think he’s been a little sore, but I think he’s fine.”
You know by now that LeRoy Vann is competing to return punts and/or kickoffs for the 49ers this season. He has been sharing repetitions with Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams and Brandon Jones.
But Vann doesn’t want you to write him off as a cornerback just yet. Though he stands just 5-8½ and weighs 177 pounds, and though some analysts thought he’d be used at wide receiver in the NFL, the undrafted rookie from Florida A&M has looked capable at the corner during offseason practices.
During these recent OTAs, the 49ers’ coaching staff put together cut-ups of the best and worst of the team’s special-teams plays from 2009. As Scott McKillop said: “We saw some of the things we did effectively, some of the things that we didn’t. And just constructive criticism.”
Can you guess what showed up on the WORST disk? Here are some hints: