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December 12, 2013
Well-traveled Wylie hoping to stick with hometown 49ers

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Devon Wylie hardly has had time to unpack.

After being cut by Kansas City on Sept. 1, the former Granite Bay wide receiver has jumped from Arizona's practice squad to Pittsburgh's to Tennessee's and, for two days last week, to Seattle's. He now finds himself trying to make a more lasting impression for the hometown 49ers, who added him to their practice squad on Tuesday.

"It's been rough, man," Wylie said Thursday. "I know a lot of teams have been bringing me on to these practice squads, basically as an extended tryout. And for one reason or another they need to bring in another guy because someone gets hurt. And I get booted."

After turning heads at the 2012 scouting combine with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, the Chiefs drafted him in the fourth round. Wylie was injured for most of his rookie season. Kansas City went through a coaching and front-office change at the end of the year, and Wylie wasn't part of their 2013 plans.

During Wylie's stint in Tennessee, the Titans bumped him to the active roster, and he handled both kick- and punt-return duties during a Nov. 14 game against Indianapolis. Wylie's fumbled kick return in the third quarter led to the Colts' go-ahead touchdown, and 12 days later Wylie was released.

The 49ers got a look at Wylie in August. They dominated the Chiefs in that preseason game, but Wylie stood out with a 52-yard punt return to the San Francisco 39-yard line in the third quarter. Wylie said he suspects his punt-return ability is what has made him a popular tryout candidate this year. During his final year at Fresno State, he finished fifth in the nation with a 15.4-yard punt-return average, and he returned two for touchdowns.

The 49ers' current punt returner is running back LaMichael James, and he is the leading candidate to handle that role next season. Still, the team does not have a strong alternative. Cornerbacks Eric Wright and Tarell Brown can do it in a pinch. But if Wright has a big role on defense next season, the 49ers might not want to risk him on special teams.

The 49ers also will be short on wide receivers when the league year ends. Only Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton currently are signed for next season. Wylie notes that he can play on the outside, in the slot and can return punts. "I like it here," he said. "If they keep me, they're going to get my best."

He's also not far from childhood buddy, Miles Burris, a linebacker for the Raiders, who also was drafted last year. Said Wylie: "He's only 40 minutes away. I'm going to make the drive here really soon."

To read a feature story on Wylie and Burris, click here.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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