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August 25, 2013
49ers notes: Hawkins' return sparks specials teams, irks Harbaugh


A 49ers special teams that allowed a 104-yard kickoff in its most recent outing bounced back Sunday with a 105-yard touchdown return by Lavelle Hawkins against the Vikings.

Before he had high-stepped across the goal line, however, officials were throwing flags at Hawkins for taunting. The backup receiver also was penalized for removing his helmet on the play, a double whammy that drew some harsh words from Jim Harbaugh on the sideline.

Hawkins wasn't finished.

Following a 22-yard catch down the sideline from B.J. Daniels in the fourth quarter, he flipped the ball at the feet of safety Mistral Raymond and then head-butted a former Cal temmate, linebacker Desmond Bishop, drawing another 15-yard penalty. "He's definitely got to do a better job of not getting emotionally hijacked after doing something great," Harbaugh said after the game.

Said Hawkins: "I'm going to go talk to (Harbaugh) and apologize to him and to the team. Because that's not ok. I don't care if it's preseason or practice, we can't have that. ... It was my emotion. I was pumped up, I was excited, but I didn't know those will be flagged. Never in my mind did I thought, 'Well, I'll just show off. I made a play. Forget my team.' It's never that. it's always team-first in my eyes."

Still, Hawkins' return highlighted a strong outing for the special teams, one of the 49ers' focal points of the team's offseason maneuvers. Kicker Phil Dawson struck a 50-yard field goal at the end of the first half, his third from 50 or longer this preseason. The coverage units also played well with safety Craig Dahl leading the way with two special teams tackles. The Vikings average kickoff return was 20.8 yards.

Rookie review - First-round draft pick Eric Reid made his first start of the preseason and was challenged right away. On the Vikings' first snap, quarterback Christian Ponder threw a 50-yard pass to receiver Greg Jennings, who was being shadowed by Reid. The ball fell incomplete.

Reid played through the first half, even after the rest of the first-string defense went to the bench in the second quarter. He finished with two tackles and had a big hit on a punt return. Dahl had started the first two preseason games at free safety.

Nnamdi No. 3 - Nnamdi Asomugha was the 49ers' No. 3 cornerback in the game and played well. He had Vikings wideout Jerome Simpson blanketed on third down early in the game, which led to Ahmad Brooks' strip of Christian Ponder and Aldon Smith's fumble.

Asomugha also deflected a short pass from Ponder that was intercepted by safety C.J. Spillman. Chris Culliver has served as the No. 3 cornerback for the last two season but is out for the year with an ACL tear.

The No. 3 cornerback plays more than 60 percent of the defensive snaps in recent seasons and promises to be on the field often in Week 1 against Green Bay.

Et cetera - Receiver Austin Collie (Oak Ridge High) did not enter the game until 20 seconds remained in the third quarter. Collie finished with one catch for eight yards in the fourth quarter.

* Kyle Williams is likely to make the 53-man roster, but he did not play Sunday and has yet to suit up in the preseason. Williams is returning from an ACL tear suffered in November. Inside linebacker Nate Stupar (arm) also did not play.

* Running back LaMichael James injured his elbow on his final carry of the game, a five-yard gain. Harbaugh said it was not serious. Meanwhile, outside linebacker Cam Johnson left the game game with a shoulder injury and did not return. Defensive end Lawrence Okoye injured his knee. Okoye said it was not serious.

-- 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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