Don't pencil in Nate Clements as the 49ers' punt returner just yet. Mike Singletary today said that he'd rather not use his top cornerback in that capacity Sunday against the Bills. "Right now, I think that would be something that we really want to stay away from," Singletary said. "It could be a possibility, but hopefully that's not something we have to do."
The problem is that the team's regular returner, Allen Rossum, is out for the game with an ankle injury while another option, Arnaz Battle, will be a game-time decision with a foot injury. Battle went through individual drills for the second straight day but did not take part in team drills.
Singletary said receivers Dominique Zeigler and Josh Morgan would be possibilities if Battle can't play. That, however, would be a risk considering that neither has experience handling punts in the NFL. "I think I returned one in high school, maybe," Zeigler said. "It'll be fun. To me, I just treat it like playing center field in baseball." Morgan, meanwhile, returned 14 punts over his career at Virginia Tech. However, he is coming back from a groin injury and there's no assurance he will play Sunday.
Zeigler also could see plenty of action at receiver. Both Battle and Jason Hill are dealing with injuries. Hill hurt his groin in today's practice, but is expected to be OK for tomorrow's session. Meanwhile, cornerback Walt Harris (hamstring) was limited after missing Wednesday's practice. "He's still a little tender but he's fine," Singletary said of Harris. "It will be a game-time decision." He said the prospect of Tarell Brown starting at cornerback if Harris can't play is a "strong possibility."
Linebackers Patrick Willis (ankle) and Takeo Spikes (rest) both returned to practice today after missing Wednesday's session.
-- Matt Barrows