49ers

Bradley Pinion satisfied with 'most consistent year' despite slow start

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USATSI

Bradley Pinion satisfied with 'most consistent year' despite slow start

Bradley Pinion’s statistics were not optimal during his contract year. But, considering the level of competition he faced, the 49ers’ punter said he is satisfied with the results.

“I thought I had a good year,” Pinion told NBC Sports Bay Area. “I got off to a slow start and had a big run-back against the Chargers. And we had a blocked punt against L.A., so those always hurt your numbers. The numbers might not have been where I wanted them this year, but I thought I had probably my most consistent year, yet.”

Pinion was tied for 29th in the NFL with a 43.7 average. He was tied for 24th with a net average of 39.1 yards. Net average is the most meaningful stat for a punter, and it was the lowest of his four-year career. Pinion ranked tied for 10th in the league in 2017 with a 41.3 net average.

The 49ers, under then-general manager Trent Baalke, selected Pinion in the fifth round of the 2015 draft and traded longtime stalwart Andy Lee to the Cleveland Browns.

This season, Pinion and the 49ers’ punt coverage team faced some of the top threats in the league, including five of the top six in return yards – Tarik Cohen (Chicago), Desmond King (L.A. Chargers), Dwayne Harris (Oakland), JoJo Nelson (L.A. Rams) and Marcus Sherels (Minnesota).

Another potential game-breaker, Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, had one return for 5 yards. Cohen had four fair-catches and no return yards against the 49ers in Week 16, as Pinion had a 45.3 net average. But King had a 56-yard return in Week 4 in the 49ers’ 29-27 loss to the Chargers.

“We played the death row of returners this year,” Pinion said, “and one of them got us.”

The 49ers do not have a long list of scheduled free agents, but Pinion and kicker Robbie Gould have contracts that are scheduled to expire this spring. Those players are allowed to negotiate only with the 49ers until March 11.

In addition to his punting chores, Pinion handles the kickoffs and is the holder on all of Gould’s kicks. Over the past two seasons with Pinion holding, Gould made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts (96 percent) with the 49ers.

“We’ve talked a lot, and we’re on the same page,” Pinion said of Gould.

Pinion said he wants to remain with the 49ers, and he has gotten the impression from those inside the organization that they want him to return, as well. But until the sides enter into negotiations and a deal is struck, he knows nothing is certain.

“You don’t know where you’re going to end up,” Pinion said. “It would say something if you can spend your whole career in one place, and I’d love to do that. But it boils down to whether you can come to some kind of agreement. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s a crazy business.”
 

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks hypes Conference USA prospects to 49ers, other NFL clubs

Merton Hanks is not shy about reaching out to his former NFL team to provide tips on college prospects he knows well.

Hanks, who played eight seasons with the 49ers (1991-98) and won a Super Bowl, is Senior Associate Commissioner of Conference USA, which consists of 14 football-playing universities.

“We want to make sure and give our young men every opportunity to be viewed by NFL clubs,” Hanks said on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “So I tend to call my peer group around the NFL to make sure they’re paying attention to our players.

“Oh, I bug everybody, (including) the 49ers with John Lynch and Martin Mayhew, that whole staff. They do a great job of sourcing talent from Division III all the way up to the (power five). They go to where the good players are, and we have some good players in the conference.”

The 49ers have six players from Conference USA on their roster, including such draft picks as safety Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), and receivers Trent Taylor (Louisiana Tech) and Richie James (Middle Tennessee State).

The 49ers signed quarterback Nick Mullens (Southern Mississippi) as an undrafted rookie in 2017, and he started eight games for the club in 2018.

One of the top prospects from Conference USA this year is Florida Atlantic tight end Harrison Bryant, who is undoubtedly on the 49ers’ radar.

The 49ers will be looking to add a tight end in the draft to pair with George Kittle. Bryant was the Mackey Award winner as the top tight end in college football.

“He reminds me of Brent Jones,” Hanks said, “a good pass-catching tight end and a willing blocker.”

Hanks also mentioned defensive back Amik Robertson of Louisiana Tech. Hanks envisions Robertson overcoming his less-than ideal size (5-foot-8, 187 pounds) to carve out a 10-year NFL career with a playing style that reminds some of Tyrann Mathieu.

With the restrictions on private workouts and pro days due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hanks said he believes the college athletes from Conference USA or from any college program who were not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine are at an inherent disadvantage this year.

“Those players are in a bit of a tough spot, in the sense that teams won’t be able to circle back and get on campus and really take a look at them,” Hanks said.

[RELATED49ers Mailbag: Could Frank Gore or Delanie Walker return to franchise?]

One Conference USA prospect who might not suffer from not being invited to the combine is Middle Tennessee defensive end Tyshun Render.

New England coach Bill Belichick went to campus in late-February to pace Render through a workout while most of his NFL peers were in Indianapolis for the combine.

“Conference USA has been fortunate,” Hanks said. “We’re a football-playing conference in every sense. We put a lot of resources toward football and NFL clubs understand that they can come get good players.”

49ERS FROM CONFERENCE USA
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, Florida Atlantic
WR Richie James, Middle Tennessee State
S Tarvarius Moore, Southern Mississippi
QB Nick Mullens, Southern Mississippi
WR Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
RB Jeff Wilson Jr., North Texas

Ex-49er Vernon Davis reveals emotions after 'The Catch III' vs. Saints

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AP

Ex-49er Vernon Davis reveals emotions after 'The Catch III' vs. Saints

Dwight Clark has "The Catch," Terrell Owens has "The Catch II" and Vernon Davis owns "The Catch III." 49ers fans should feel lucky to be a part of so much history. 

Owens' catch came 17 years after Clark's and Davis turned this into a trilogy 13 years after T.O.'s sequel. Davis etched his name in history by hauling in the game-winning catch with nine seconds left to beat the New Orleans Saints, 36-32, in the 2011 NFC Divisional Round playoffs. 

The former No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft was overcome with emotional. He was seen crying and hugging teammates and coaches on the sidelines.

Davis finished his famous performance with seven catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Once he crossed the goal line, he couldn't hold his emotions back

"It was always my dream to be a professional athlete," Davis said in a recent Q&A with Niners Nation. "The struggles and difficulties I had along the way, losing games and as a player coming into the league, not living up to my expectations right away. All of that was built up in me, and once I made that play and that catch, I couldn’t help but let those tears out." 

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Even though he already had produced two seasons of at least 900 receiving yards and was a Pro Bowler in 2009, many believed the tight end hadn't lived up to expectations. Davis was a freak at the NFL Scouting Combine and was believed to dominate the NFL from Day 1. 

But then he only averaged 377 receiving yards in his first three seasons and famously found himself in a sideline dispute with coach Mike Singletary. And then, "The Catch III" happened. 

"Those were tears of joy," Davis told Niners Nation. "All of the work, all of the dedication, and the moments where we just couldn’t succeed as a team. I went from falling to getting back up. That’s what that was."

Davis, now 36 years old, retired from the NFL this offseason. He played 10 seasons in San Francisco and had 5,640 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns. Davis also scored eight more TDs over four seasons in Washington. 

The two-time Pro Bowl tight end now is focused on an acting career