Ever since the 49ers decided to pull the trigger on drafting LaMichael James in the second round of last week's NFL Draft, there has been discussion about his potential as a part of the return game. In his conference call after being selected, James was quite confident about his abilities, and his willingness to do whatever the team wanted to win.
Coach Harbaugh addressed the topic in his Friday evening press conference:
Trent had said a lot of people would look at him as just a third down back. I asked Trent if he agreed with that, would he be limited to that type of role.
"No, I don't think so. I don't think that he'll be limited to just a third down back. You have to take into consideration fourth down, too. This is somebody that has a chance to evolve into a punt returner, a kickoff returner. He's got to work on his hands in those situations, returning punts. That may be X amount of time before he's really able to do that. We've got a pretty darn good returner in Ted Ginn, as it is now, but that'll definitely create a possibility down the road for us. He's proven that he's a multi-down back in our eyes."
The additions of LaMichael James and Perrish Cox had me pondering Ted Ginn's future with the team. However, upon further reflection, it would seem like Ginn's role is fairly secure in 2012. Given how the NFC championship game went down, if there are any concerns about a potential returner's hands, it's safe to say they won't get the main returner job.
Ted Ginn has had a two-year run as one of the two or three best return men in the NFL and that has likely bought him another year as the 49ers return man. James had some experience returning punts last season at Oregon (13 returns) and Cox had some in 2010 with the Broncos (3 punt returns, 9 kick returns). I would imagine James, Cox and Kyle Williams will all get some opportunities to return punts and kicks in the preseason. However, it would be an upset for Ginn to lose his job later this summer (and in turn get cut).