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?
The situation puzzles me. Kick returns were one of the 49ers’ glaring issues following the 2009 season, and three newcomers – Ginn, sixth-round draft choice Kyle Williams and undrafted rookie LeRoy Vann – were expected to vie for the job(s), with Zeigler and Brandon Jones also in the mix.
The 49ers unceremoniously cut Vann on Aug. 9. They dumped Jones last Wednesday. Williams sprained his big toe against Indianapolis in the first preseason game and is currently out of commission. Which leaves Ginn and Zeigler as the frontrunners.
Yet Guillory, signed Aug. 11, got all five punt returns against the Vikings, and both kickoff returns. There are two ways to interpret this: (1) The 49ers really want to give Guillory a good look before making a decision. Or (2) they know just what they have in Ginn and Zeigler, and can rest them for the regular season.
The first proposition seems a little far-fetched. Guillory, who went undrafted after playing at Central Missouri, fumbled away his first chance at Indy; last night he muffed another punt before recovering, and he fair-caught a ball at his own 3-yard line, an obvious special-teams faux pas.
No offense to Guillory, a Vallejo native, but he has the appearance of camp fodder.
So you’d have to figure the 49ers are keeping Ginn and/or Zeigler clean and undented for the regular season. But that seems like a gamble.
Ginn has NFL career averages of 8.7 yards on punt returns and 23.0 yards on kickoff returns, impressive enough. He has returned three kicks for touchdowns. He also has a history of fumbling. And if it turns out the 49ers need him to see heavy rotation at wide receiver, they might not want to overburden him on special teams.
Zeigler, meanwhile, is an open book. His entire NFL body of work when it comes to the return game is a pair of punt returns in 2008. He would appear to be in need of some reps.
Do the 49ers believe Williams will return soon? Again, I’m not sure what the team is thinking on this issue at the moment. There is no media access today. I hope to return to the subject of returns when we speak to Singletary tomorrow.