SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Among the big questions this week for the San Francisco 49ers is what will happen on special teams. Who will return kickoffs? Who will return punts?
The answer: Wait and see.
Ted Ginn Jr., the Niners' deep threat at wide receiver and an accomplished kick returner, has been ruled doubtful for Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs because of a knee injury. Rookie Kyle Williams, who was expected to be a backup receiver and punt returner, hasn't played a down after suffering a sprained big toe in the preseason.
Neither coach Mike Singletary nor special teams coordinator Kurt Schottenheimer said who the team's returners will be, although Williams returned punts in practice this week and seems recovered from his injury. It's likely that tight end Delanie Walker or Josh Morgan will return kickoffs, although Williams is also a possibility.
Singletary said the punt return job would be a game-time decision.
Special teams were considered an area in need of improvement during the offseason, but so far the 49ers have been unable to find stability. Because of injuries, they've had three players return kickoffs and two players – Ginn and rookie Phillip Adams – return punts. But Adams' fumble of a fourth-quarter punt against the New Orleans Saints on Monday night led to a Saints field goal.
Still, Schottenheimer said he hasn't lost faith in Adams' ability to handle the job.
"Absolutely, I feel very good about him," he said. "He only had about 18 punt returns in his whole career at South Carolina State in a completely different environment as compared to a Monday night football game. He was the best one available for us last week and he came that close to giving us what we were looking for."
Although the 49ers rank fourth in the NFC in punt return average, they're 15th in kickoff return average and 11th in defending punts and kickoffs.
"We've got a long way to go," Schottenheimer said. "We have to keep getting better every week. We're far from being satisfied."
INJURY UPDATE: On their official injury report, the 49ers listed Ginn and cornerback Will James (ankle) as doubtful and linebacker Takeo Spikes (knee contusion) as questionable, although Spikes did not practice Friday. Running back Anthony Dixon (back tightness) is probable. Center Eric Heitmann (fibula) is out.