As has been pointed out in a FanShot and in comments earlier, Mike Singletary announced during his press conference that Allen Rossum was given his release. It's not exactly shocking given the fact that he was inactive the last two weeks. He had some back issues this past week, but if he had been in the teams plans for the rest of the year, he would have been active and returning kicks. In a related move, the 49ers lifted the roster exemption on Michael Crabtree.
Over the next week we'll have plenty of bye week discussion about the team at the quarter-plus point of the season. There are plenty of major issues to discuss after yesterday's game and I thought we'd start things out slowly with the relatively quiet area of special teams. We know what we're getting with Andy Lee, Joe Nedney and Brian Jennings, so really we're looking at the area that has been less than stellar most of the season: the return game.
Over the past two weeks, the 49ers utilized Delanie Walker and Michael Robinson on kick returns, and then Arnaz Battle solely on punt returns. None of them has done anything amazing, and in fact, Walker had his fumble yesterday, while Arnaz Battle has averaged a robust 1.3 yards per punt return over four returns. Clearly not world-beaters. So is there in fact a solution?
The 49ers.com depth chart actually lists Micheal Spurlock behind Allen Rossum as the #2 kick and punt returner, with Arnaz Battle as the #3 punt returner. While Spurlock has not had a single return in the regular season, he had four kick returns in the preseason, averaging 20.5 yards per return. Prior to joining the 49ers, Spurlock's biggest season as a return man was with Tampa Bay in 2007 when he had 16 kick returns and 4 punt returns. His biggest claim to fame was being the first player in Bucs history to return a kick for a touchdown. He actually averaged 27.8 yards per return that season.
So are the 49ers doomed to a mediocre return game for the rest of this season?