Kyle Williams returned his first punt at Candlestick Park since his infamous outing in the NFC Championship game Jan. 22. Williams not only fielded it cleanly, he returned it 22 yards, hurdling Vikings safety Andrew Sandejo along the way.
"I was calm," Williams said of the first punt return, which was made in a swirling wind. "I've been waiting for this for a long time and I couldn't wait to do it, but I wasn't jumpy. I wasn't nervous, anxious. I just couldn't wait to get it going. Couldn't wait to get the ball and try to score. I was trying to take it to the house."
Did he think he could reach the end zone? "Well, yeah," Williams said. "Every punt returner, every kick returner will tell you if there's a little crevice, if there's a little lane, you want to make the most of it. ... I think I could have capitalized on it more because those guys blocked their tails off up front."
Williams received two other punts, returning one six yards and fair-catching the other.
The 49ers gave veteran defensive end Justin Smith the day off. Smith, an 11-year veteran, was one of six 49ers not in uniform for the game. The others were recovering from recent injuries. They included rookies Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming, defensive lineman Will Tukuafu, tight end Nate Byham and wide receiver Joe Hastings.
Running back Frank Gore was in uniform but did not play. Kendall Hunter started the game at tailback. Receiver Mario Manningham also was in uniform but did not play.
Backup Ricky Jean Francois started at right defensive end for Smith, who is one of the 49ers most indispensable players this season. Smith finished second on the team with 7 Â½ sacks last year but was credited for helping teammate Aldon Smith, who also lines up on the right side, finish with 14 sacks.
Among the players cited by Jim Harbaugh after the game were cornerback Perrish Cox and outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari. Cox, who lined up at left cornerback with the second-team defense, finished with three tackles - including one for a loss - a pass defense and a diving interception along the sideline. "I thought his coverage was excellent," Harbaugh said.
Bakhtiari, meanwhile, led the team in tackles (four) and had two sacks from his left outside linebacker position. Bakhtiari grew up in San Mateo and played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. He's vying to become the team's No. 4 outside linebacker. "That fired me up on a lot of levels," Harbaugh said. "What's good for us, what's good for these young men."
Notes: First-round pick A.J. Jenkins made a nice catch along the sideline for a 15-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, however, he dropped a short pass from Colin Kaepernick and had another drop on a throw from Scott Tolzien. Jenkins finished the game with two catches for 20 yards.
Said Harbaugh: "A.J. - he made the big catch on the sideline. Great throw from Colin and he makes the catch. Also, we dropped a few balls."
* Last year's preseason surprise, Demarcus Dobbs, officially has changed his number to No. 40 and is listed as a tight end. Dobbs, howeverm, played defensive end exclusively in the first half. He played tight end in a goal-line situation at the end of the game.
â€¢ Former Sacramento State quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson played the fourth quarter for Minnesota. He was 3-7 for 49 yards with an interception. Bethel-Thomson spent the 2011 training camp with the 49ers.
-- Matt Barrows