Jason Hill caught in ‘numbers game’

Hillandcrabtree.jpgThrough the first 23 games of his NFL career, 49ers receiver Jason Hill – and San Francisco native — caught just one pass for 6 yards and was inactive 11 times.


All that changed in the second half of last season when Arnaz Battle’s foot injury gave him the opportunity to get significant playing time as the 49ers’ No. 3 receiver. Hill seemingly took advantage of the situation, catching 30 passes for 317 yards and two touchdowns.


So much for carrying momentum from one year to the next. Hill thought he might be among the team’s final cuts. Well, he made the 49ers’ 53-man roster, but he has been a healthy scratch for each of the first three games.


Coach Mike Singletary said Hill’s inability to practice during a good portion of the 49ers’ offseason program with injuries put him at a disadvantage at the beginning of training camp.


“Jason Hill was injured with a hamstring, a groin, a this, a that and missed a lot of time,” Singletary said. “The thing in the National Football League is the things you did the year before is outstanding, it’s great, but it only counts last year. Going forward, everybody has to earn that spot.”


It looks as if Hill will be in uniform on Sunday, though. He said he is listed on a lot of the 49ers’ special teams, which is a clear indication that he figures to play on against the Rams. I spoke with Hill today about his situation:


Question: Have you been told what you need to do to be “up” on game days?

Hill: “Coach Singletary and I talked about practicing how I play in the games on Sunday. He wants me to make the plays in practice that I make in games. That’s a pretty simple rule, I guess. I would’ve liked to have known that before.”


Question: Isn’t that the way it should be?

Hill: “I agreed with him 100 percent. But sometimes in the games it brings a little extra out of you.”


Question: Do you consider yourself a bad practice player?

Hill: “No, I’m a great practice player. That’s why it was surprising to hear him say that. I thought I was making plays when I had an opportunity.”


Question: What does that mean, more energy and enthusiasm in practice?

Hill: “I want to make sure when they watch the defensive film or the offensive film, they see me. Whether it’s scout team, regular team, special teams, whatever, make sure I stand out like I do in the games.”


Question: Has this been frustrating for you?

Hill: “It’s the most frustrating time I’ve had so far in my career because I thought last year I earned something. Not being able to suit up, not be out there with my guys getting that big opening win in Arizona, it hurt.”


Question: Was there a point that you wish the 49ers would just trade you?

Hill: “I thought every possible thought you could think, whether it be here or somewhere else. But it’s part of the game. Sometimes you play for two or three teams.”


Question: Did you ever express a desire to get traded?

Hill: “Not to anybody here, just among my friends and family – just talking about the possibilities. I told people, ‘It’s possible I won’t be here, so get ready for it. Any tailgate you might have planned, get ready for it.’ “


Question: With the situation here, the 49ers never use four wideouts, and there’s Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Micheal Spurlock, you and now Brandon Jones, how do you get your opportunities?

Hill: “It’s tough. You have to battle, whether it’s special teams or the one or two opportunities you might get in a game try to make the best of it. I think as the offense evolves we’ll use the wideouts a little more. When teams start keying on Vernon (Davis) a little more, it’ll open things up for the wide receivers, eventually. You have to hold fast to what you’re doing now and hope it’ll pay off later.”


Question: Do you ever think ahead of what happens if Michael Crabtree signs?

Hill: “I do. I look at the numbers just about every day, especially not being up. Now that I’ll be up, I don’t think I’ll worry about the numbers at all. I think I’ll just worry about making plays like I’ve been doing. Yeah, you think about the numbers. It’s part of it. It’s a numbers game most of the time.”


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Earlier today I asked 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye on whether he believes in using four-receiver sets. The 49ers have not put four wideouts on the field at the same time this season. And they use three receivers sparingly.


“It would stress us tremendously to have double open edges and four wide receivers and no threat to run the ball and put that kind of pass-rush burden on our offensive line and on the quarterback,” Raye said. “I think we would be entering into foreign territory at a point where we don’t need to.


“Now if it’s for some cosmetic purpose, to make somebody feel better, we could go spread out everybody and throw it all over the lot, but that’s not what we do. We have the ability to do that if for some reason — injury or a situation dictated that — we have that package.”


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Did not practice: RB Frank Gore (ankle, foot) and S Reggie Smith (groin) will not play. DT Aubrayo Franklin (not injury related) was given a rest and will start Sunday against the Rams.


Limited participation in practice: LT Joe Staley (thigh), LG David Baas (ankle) and LB Jeff Ulbrich (thigh). Each is expected to be available for Sunday’s game against the Rams.


Full participation in practice: TE Vernon Davis (shin), RS Allen Rossum (illness), RT Adam Snyder (thumb) and LB Takeo Spikes (shin).




Did not practice: QB Marc Bulger (right shoulder), T Jason Smith (knee) and S James Butler (knee). It looks as if Kyle Boller will start at QB for the Rams on Sunday.


Limited practice: CB Ron Bartell (thigh), T Alex Barron (thigh).


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