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Simonston and Lewis Challenge Sutherland
June 5 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
If you were to ask a member of the 49ers coaching staff when the last time the team scored a touchdown on a kick return, they probably wouldnít be able to answer you. They may say it was Kevin Williams two seasonsí ago, but that run back was called back. In fact to get the answer they would have to sift trough statistics from the 2001 season, the 2000 season, the 1999 season until they finally found RW McQuarters 72-yard punt return for a touchdown in 1998. Thatís something the 49ers want to change this season, and itís something special teamsí coach Bruce DeHaven will attempt to change in what is expected to be his final season with the club.

Despite his criminal record, Vinny Sutherland, who started in the position last season, is the leading candidate for the primary return role this season. Sutherland did an expectable job last season showing some threat for explosion, but unable to really make a difference. Sutherland hopes his sure hands will win him the position again this season.

Running back Jonas Lewis who spent last season on the injured reserve is believed to be among Sutherlandís greatest competition. Lewis is an explosive running back with good vision. Whether he can return kicks will be left for him to prove this off-season.

Undrafted Free Agent Ken Simonton is probably the other leading threat to Sutherlandís position. Simonton is an explosive player, who is quite small but very quick. The 49ers really liked his abilities in college, and he will bring lots of competition to the spot.

The 49ers will have others competing for the spot (including Jamal Robertson, Teddy Gaines and others), but really these three are the front runners. The team is looking to have an explosive threat returning the ball that will inspire fear in the opposition, and that could help the team get a quick score every once in a while. It will come down to good coaching, great blocking and super running, but certainly this is an area the 49ers are no longer content to ignore.

Further Notes:
Vinny Sutherlandís court day was moved back to June 18th.

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