49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 11, 2010
Ticket to the 53-man roster: special teams

The conventional thinking is that NFL special teams coordinators have the discretion to pick one non-starter for the 53-man roster. Kurt Schottenheimer and Mike Singletary recently spoke about that subject, and Singletary concluded the number should be more like three or four.

"As I look at teams that go deep into the playoffs and go to championship games, they have great special teams," he said. "For us, it's more than just one guy. It's got to be a number of guys. And our philosophy is: I don't want to have anybody on this team that's just kind of sitting around and holding a bag. Everybody's going to have to contribute. And there will be some guys who make this team (who) maybe right now are not quite where they need to be, you know, the No. 2 guy or whatever - if they're busting their tails on special teams, and they can help us win? That's important. And I'm looking at those guys."

Asked about who those players might be, Singletary mentioned Michael Robinson, fullback Brit Miller and linebacker Scott McKillop. But he also said that some of the younger players also will get a chance to show their special-teams skills. A few guys who I suspect -- I say 'suspect' because they haven't been in pads yet -- have the combination of speed and physicality to make an impression on special teams are: linebackers Navorro Bowman, Keaton Kristick and Mike Balogun as well as defensive backs Phillip Adams and Curtis Taylor.

Singletary hates practice-field fights, which is a big departure from his predecessor, Mike Nolan, who thought fisticuffs was a sign of desire. Last year Singletary implemented a rule whereby a fight would require the entire team to run gassers. Today that rule went into effect when linebacker Parys Haralson tangled with an offensive player.

Indeed, it was the chippiest session of the spring. Defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell took exception to what he thought was a cheap hit by rookie offensive tackle Anthony Davis. On the final play of practice, fullback Moran Norris bulled over McKillop in the end zone in the non-contact session.

Afterward, Singletary pulled the team together for a talk. "I don't want it at all," he said of the fisticuffs. "Because it's foolishness to me. I'm a firm believer of what you do on the practice field you're going to do in the game."

I'd say that today was the most competitive I've seen the offense and defense. That translated to some good plays by both sides. Alex Smith had several nice throws, including one to Dominique Zeigler over Tarell Brown in the corner of the end zone and a very pretty 25-yard strike to Jason Hill in the back of the end zone. ... Nate Davis threw a nice dart to Michael Crabtree on a short-yardage play near the end zone for a touchdown ... Ted Ginn outwrestled Brown for a ball on the sideline on a pass from Smith. On the next play, Smith went back to the same side of the field and hit Delanie Walker over cornerback Keith Smith. Brown got a bit of revenge later in the session when he broke up a Smith pass to Vernon Davis. ... Rookie Kyle Williams has been prominent in practice the last two days. Today he made another catch in traffic, this time in front of fellow rookie Patrick Stoudamire. ...Taylor Mays knocked away a David Carr pass intended for Williams in the end zone. Fellow safety Reggie Smith later picked off a Smith pass intended for Josh Morgan ... Receiver Brandon Jones sprained his ankle during a running play on Thursday and did not take part in today's session.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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