Competition at Punter Too
June 11 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Thereís plenty of competition at all Ďskillí special team positions this season. The race to beat out Vinny Sutherland as kick returner has been quite well documented, ever since Sutherlands arrest. The competition at place kicker too, between Cortez, Rheem and fourth round draft pick has also been quite widely publicized. The competition at punter however, has gone vastly unnoticed.
Last season the 49ers signed rookie Jason Baker to be their punter. With his powerful and accurate leg, Baker earned a roster pot, and recorded a 40.8 yard average throughout the season. The average was just seven tenths of a yard shorter than his career average in college. After a good rookie season, Baker was voted to the all rookie team.
Challenging Baker this off-season is Andrew Bayes who is currently playing in the NFLE. In Europe, Bayes is doing an incredible job recording a 43.7 yard average so far this season. Bayes will certainly bring competition to training camp.
Sending a kicker to NFLE never made much sense to me. Kickerís legs often are noticeably tired towards the end of the regular season, so I canít see how the success of a player in Europe would help them in making the 49ers. By the time training camp roles around, Bakerís leg will still be quite fresh while Bayes will have been kicking in games for quite some time. It seems like a silly way to build competition at the spot; still itís hard to ignore the extra three yards in Bayes average kick.