Kyle Nelson

49ers activate long-snapper Kyle Nelson for season debut vs. Panthers

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USATSI

49ers activate long-snapper Kyle Nelson for season debut vs. Panthers

SANTA CLARA -- Long-snapper Kyle Nelson returns to the field for the 49ers on Sunday, hoping to return to his role in virtual anonymity.

Nelson was activated on Saturday to enable him to make his season debut against the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium. He hopes his return to the playing field will be thoroughly unremarkable.

“It’s having a great kicker, having a great punter and holder, that’s what makes us look better by not being noticed,” said Nelson, whom completed his 10-game for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

The 49ers released wide receiver Jordan Matthews to make room for Nelson on the 53-man roster.

Nelson is the fourth long-snapper the 49ers employed in his absence, following Colin Holba, Jon Condo and Garrison Sanborn. Nelson has been the 49ers’ primary long-snapper since 2014.

“I’m just trying to be better than I was before I left, come in and help everybody and help continue the winning,” Nelson said.

Kicker Robbie Gould struggled in the first six games of the season, making just 12 of his 19 field-goal attempts. Gould has already missed more kicks than during any season of his 15-year career.

Nelson, 33, said he unknowingly took a supplement that was tainted with a banned substance. He said he tested for 0.4 nanograms of the substance. While he was on suspension, the 49ers signed Nelson to a four-year, $4.5 million contract extension.

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“The Niners organization has been amazing through this whole process,” he said. “It’s been rough, and they’ve had my back since Day 1. It’s been awesome. I don’t know if this would’ve been like this anywhere else.

“They trusted me that I would never knowingly do anything, take anything illegal, and if I did, I’d be the first to admit it. For them to believe me and have my back through this whole thing has been amazing.”

Why 49ers' Robbie Gould could get boost from Kyle Nelson's return

Why 49ers' Robbie Gould could get boost from Kyle Nelson's return

Sunday's 9-0 win over Washington did not start well for 49ers kicker Robbie Gould, who pushed a 45-yard field-goal attempt wide to the left in a scoreless game in the first half.

But things got a lot better for him and the team in the second half. Gould made field-goal attempts of 28, 22 and 29 yards to provide all of the 49ers' points Sunday in a steady downpour at muddy FedEx Field.

The news keeps getting better for Gould, who should benefit from the return of Kyle Nelson, who has served as the 49ers’ primary long-snapper since 2014.

Nelson completed his 10-game suspension on Sunday for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. The long-snapper is eligible to return off the NFL’s reserve/suspended list to play on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Levi’s Stadium.

“Just got to get back to work,” Gould said on Sunday. “Obviously, we got to get consistent. We got to get back into a rhythm. I think that’s been the most challenging part over the last six weeks is there have been a lot of moving parts.

“You know, two-thirds of our operation hasn’t been around. And you’re going back and teaching yourself different things and going through different situations, where those situations were pretty easy in the last two years.”

Gould was nearly automatic with the 49ers after signing a two-year contract on the first day of free agency in 2017. Nelson was the long-snapper for all but the final four games of last season, and punter Bradley Pinion served as the holder.

Gould made 72 of 75 field-goal attempts in 2017 and ’18. It was the most-accurate two-season span for any kicker in NFL history with at least 50 attempts.

But after returning to the team after a contentious contract situation that resulted in Gould signing a four-year, $19 million deal, he has been forced to adjust to three different long-snappers and new holder Mitch Wishnowsky, the 49ers’ rookie punter.

The 49ers determined there were timing issues with the first long-snapper they signed, Colin Holba, and released him. Then, veteran Jon Condo retired after just one game. Garrison Sanborn took over the duties for the past three games.

Now, the 49ers hope Nelson's return will be a boost toward Gould returning to the form of his first two seasons with the team.

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Gould already has more single-season misses than during any time in his 15-year career. He is 12 of 19 on field-goal tries. He is 0-for-3 from 50-plus yards, 2-for-4 from 40 to 49, and 4-of-6 from 30 to 39.

He entered the season as the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history, but Gould has fallen to No. 4 on the all-time list behind Justin Tucker, Josh Lambo and Stephen Gostkowski.

“It’s been a growing experience for me,” Gould said. “I think it’s definitely been an experience where I can take the first six weeks and it’ll help me down the stretch, for sure.”