Ted Ginn has begun OTAs the way he ended the 2011 season - working out with a trainer on a side field while the rest of the team practices. Ginn's injury, unknown at this point, does not appear to be serious. He's moving without a limp. But it's a reminder that the 49ers need to find a backup punt returner for Ginn, who is one of the top returners in the league but who is signed only through this season.
Last week Jim Harbaugh said he would be comfortable with Kyle Williams as the primary backup this season. That very well may be the way it plays out. Williams' high-profile flubs in January appear to have sharpened his focus this offseason.
But with a beefed-up wide receiving corps, Williams' spot on the 53-man squad is not a lock. The hope is that rookie LaMichael James, who is virtually guaranteed a roster spot, will handle the job long term. James' experience as a punt returner, however, is limited to the 15 opportunities he had last season at Oregon (for 139 yards, including one touchdown), and Harbaugh acknowledged he may not be ready for the role this season.
"This is somebody that has a chance to evolve into a punt returner, a kickoff returner," he said of James after he was drafted. "He's got to work on his hands in those situations, returning punts. That may be x amount of time before he's really able to do that. We've got a pretty darn good returner in Ted Ginn, as it is now, but that'll definitely create a possibility down the road for us."
Another possibility is newcomer cornerback Perrish Cox, who has a much more prolific college background in returning punts (79 for 694 yards, two touchdowns) and who had three chances as a rookie in Denver in 2010.
During last week's OTA session that was open to the media, Cox took a healthy number of repetitions as the No. 3 cornerback and appeared to be ahead of Tramaine Brock. With Carlos Rogers watching from the sideline, Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver were the de facto starters with Cox entering in nickel situations.
It's only May, and there will be plenty of roster jockeying, especially during training camp when injuries inevitably will strike. But Cox has the added potential as a backup punt returner. And when it comes to the bottom of the roster, having multiple talents is a plus.
The 49ers will have another three days of OTA practices this week. Today's is open to the media, so I'll have a minutia-filled blog at the end of the day.
-- Matt Barrows