Rookie receiver and Bruce Ellington, who handled return duties when healthy this year, is questionable for Sunday's game with a hamstring injury that forced him out of last week's overtime loss to the San Diego Chargers.
Holliday, standing 5'5", will use Sunday as a tryout to remain with the team heading into the offseason program. After the 49ers released LaMichael James early in the preseason, their return game has been uninspired. Holliday was drafted in the sixth round in 2010 by Houston, before going to Denver and bouncing from the Giants to Buccaneers this season.
Ellington is averaging 8.2 yards per punt return, ranking 30th in the NFL. On kickoffs, Ellington's 25.6-yard average is 25th.
"Excited to watch him," 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday of his new return man. "Hopefully, he creates a spark and for him, personally, shows that he can get the job done as he has done in the past.”
Holliday comes to San Francisco with four career return touchdowns on his resume, with two each on punt and kick returns. He's appeared in just one game this season with Tampa Bay after spending all of last year with the AFC Champion Denver Broncos. There, he notched a punt and kick return touchdown.
To make room on the active roster, right guard Alex Boone was placed on season-ending injured reserve Friday.
“It’s got some Meniscus, so it’ll be most likely a procedure there," Harbaugh said. "But, don’t think it will be extensive knee surgery.”
After getting off to a rough start following his offseason-long holdout, Boone's play increased dramatically as the season progressed. He was named a Pro-Bowl alternate earlier in the week.
Boone will be replaced in the starting lineup by Joe Looney, Harbaugh said, despite Looney being a healthy scratch in last week's loss in favor of reserve lineman Dillon Farrell.
"We wanted Dillon to play some tight end, to be in the position to be an extra tight end. That was the main reason and Dillon is a backup center as well, so that was our thinking,” Harbaugh said. "...We were thin at tight end and we had to have that plan in place.”
Sunday San Francisco will be using its eighth different starting offensive line of the season.
Special teams ace Bubba Ventrone was also placed on injured reserve Friday with a groin injury. The 49ers promoted cornerback Cameron Fuller to the active roster from the practice squad to take Ventrone's place.