Mitch Wishnowsky

49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky picks up first award of NFL career

49ers punter Mitch Wishnowsky picks up first award of NFL career

Rookie punter Mitch Wishnowsky, whom the 49ers selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft, earned the first honor of his NFL career on Wednesday.

Wishnowsky, who grew up playing Australian rules football, was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the 49ers’ 28-25 victory Thursday night over the Arizona Cardinals.

Wishnowsky averaged 46.2 yards on five punts with a net average of 42.8 yards. Three of his punts pinned the Cardinals inside their own 20-yard line. Arizona’s average starting field position after Wishnowsky’s four kickoffs was the 22-yard line.

On the season, Wishnowsky ranks 11th in the NFL among players with 20 or more punts with a 42.3 net average.

Wishnowsky, who played collegiately at Utah, was a three-time finalist for the Ray Guy Award and won the honor that goes to the nation’s best punter in 2016.

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Meanwhile, the honor for NFC Offensive Player of the Week went to Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who won the award over Jimmy Garoppolo. Wilson completed 29 of 43 pass attempts for 378 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Seahawks' 40-34 victory over Tampa Bay.

Garoppolo had the best game of his NFL career Thursday, completing 28 of 37 pass attempts for 317 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions against the Cardinals.

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky acknowledges he must adjust tackling style

49ers' Mitch Wishnowsky acknowledges he must adjust tackling style

SANTA CLARA -- Rookie Mitch Wishnowsky is tied for eighth on the 49ers with two special-teams tackles, but he would rather remain completely out of the action than relive his days of playing Australia rules football.

Wishnowksy, the 49ers' punter and kickoff specialist, found himself in the middle of things Sunday when he was penalized for lowering his head to initiate contact with Carolina Panthers return man Reggie Bonnafon.

“In Australian football, you’re not allowed to go for the legs or anything like that, so that goes against everything I sort of know.” Wishnowsky said. “He sort of lowered his head. I wasn’t trying to lead with my head or hurt him or anything like that, I felt it was really one of the only ways to stop him.”

Wishnowsky angled toward the sideline and then leveled Bonnafon with the hit. The left side of Wishnowsky's helmet made contact with the right side of Bonnafon’s helmet. Wishnowsky was penalized for lowering his helmet to initiate contact.

“I’m going to have to adjust, for sure,” Wishnowsky said. “That’s the first time where I’ve been in that situation he has nowhere to go. I feel like I didn’t have too much of an opportunity to do anything else. I’ll have to figure something out.”

Wishnowksy said he has not heard from the NFL about whether he will be fined for the hit. The league fines players $28,075 for impermissible use of the helmet.

“It’s a little annoying when they get out to the 38 and there were 15 yards on top of that, so that’s never good,” Wishnowsky said.

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Bonnafon fielded the kickoff at the 3-yard line and returned it 35 yards. The Panthers took over at the 49ers' 47-yard line but generated no points from the second-quarter possession as San Francisco's defense forced a punt.

Wishnowsky, a fourth-round draft pick from Utah, ranks 12th in the league with a 42.2-yard net average.

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.”