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Training Camp Battles Part X
July 14 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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In the final training camp battle preview, I take a look at the kick and punt return position. The 49ers have made improving their special teams a priority this off-season, and so Vinny Sutherland who manned the position last season, will see lots of competition in this yearís training camp. Sutherland has been under scrutiny all off-season for run ins with the law after being arrested while driving under the influence.

Vinny Sutherland proved to be sure handed last season, and fearless, still Sutherland lacked the big plays that the 49ers were looking for from the position. His greatest competition this training camp will come from NFL Europe running back Jamal Robertson. However, there will be others trying out for the position, including Cederick Wilson, Tai Streets, Teddy Gaines, and Jimmy Williams.

Robertson has very little experience returning kicks, having done so in just a few games at the end of this yearís NFLE season. Still he proved competent and explosive at the position.

Cederick Wilson has been a nice surprise throughout the off-season. Heís quick and could make a good returner. Fellow receiver Tai Streets has experience in returning kicks, having done so a little last season, but likely wonít be a big threat to the leading candidates.

Cornerback Teddy Gaines was drafted in the seventh round. Heís short and fast, fitting the ideal return manís profile. Still he is quite inexperienced at the position. It will take a big showing from this off-season to find a spot on the roster. Fellow cornerback Jimmy Williams was already given an opportunity to return kicks in mini-camp. Williams looked quite good doing so, but did drop a few balls.

The kick/punt return position will be a heated battle throughout training camp. The 49ers, in the past, have dedicated a roster spot to the position, but would be happier to have a regular player able to man the duties.

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