Back in OTAs, Mike Singletary said the final players to make his 53-man roster would be the ones who contribute the most on special teams.
On Monday, the 49ers head coach reiterated those intentions days after his team put its best special teams performance together in a 28-24 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Rookie cornerback Phillip Adams provided an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown, cornerback Tarell Brown forced a fumble on a Raiders kickoff return, and both Joe Nedney and Shane Andrus converted field goal attempts. Even fourth-string quarterback Jarrett Brown got in on the act, tackling Raiders wide receiver Jacoby Ford on a kickoff return in the second half.
Special teams captain Michael Robinson said it was the best the 49ers special teams units have performed in the 2010 preseason.
“It was good to build on, but we still have a lot of cleaning up to do, especially in the kickoff return game,” Robinson said. “It was good to see a punt return spring through there and it was good to see our kickoff coverage getting down there and forcing a fumble. But we felt like we could still do better.”
And if the 49ers put together an even better special teams performance together in time for Thursday night’s home preseason finale against the San Diego Chargers, Singletary’s final roster cuts might be severely influenced.
But it won’t only be the players who will have a chance to sway Singletary’s opinions, special teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer will play a key role in the final cuts according to Singletary.
“I think for us to get where we need to go, we need to have great special teams,” Singletary said. “I can’t challenge (Schottenheimer) and say, ‘Hey, I want us to have the best special teams in the league,’ and not give him a say in what he needs.”
“Is special teams important or not? And it is important; it’s going to be very important for us. So yes, (Schottenheimer) is going to have a tremendous amount of weight when it comes to, you know, there may be five, six, seven slots that he has on there that he has a chance to have influence on.”
For players who put a huge emphasis on their special teams play like fullback Brit Miller, that news is nothing out of the ordinary. After he was called up to the 53-man roster late last season, Miller knows just how important special teams are to the 49ers overall success.
“It’s important to me every week,” Miller said. “I made a few tackles last week and I take pride in that. I take pride in being the first one down the field to make a tackle. That’s my goal every time. It’s important to me every day – I don’t care what game it is.”
Notes and Quotes
Singletary commended the play of Adams, but would not officially name him as the team’s punt returner. Singletary did say the seventh-round pick was one of the few players who “definitely” have a strong chance to be the guy.
On the injury front, tackle Joe Staley (knee sprain) and running back Brian Westbrook (hamstring cramp) are “fine” according to the head coach. Tight end Vernon Davis (knee) is close to being ready to return to action, and Singletary said he could possibly return to action this week. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (neck) could have played in Oakland had it been a regular season game, but sat out as a precaution.
Aubrayo Franklin, who signed his one-year franchise tender on Saturday, could play a series or two against the Chargers, Singletary said. The coaches will discuss the possibility a little bit more before a determination is made.
Lastly, Singletary said the final preseason game could very well influence his decision-making on the final 53. Nothing is set in stone.
“There are always few things that the game could influence and it’s just a matter of in that fourth game, it just depends on what jumps out at you. It’s just one of those things that you’re just there at the game, and you’re thinking this guy may be a candidate for the practice squad. This guy may be a candidate for the 53, you know this guy may be a candidate for the 45, and they do something in that game that tilts it one way or the other. This guy may or may not make the team. So those scenarios that I just went through, they can be answered in that last game.”
For a deeper look into special teams, check out TV49′s special look at special teams.
Tags: Aubrayo Franklin, Brian Westbrook, Brit Miller, Joe Staley, Kurt Schottenheimer, Michael Crabtree, Michael Robinson, Phillip Adams, Vernon Davis
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