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Teams Talk: Spillman on Arizona

Posted Nov 26, 2010

In this week’s Teams Talk column, second-year safety C.J. Spillman shares his thoughts on the special teams aspect of the 49ers upcoming game against the Arizona Cardinals.

When I joined the 49ers before Week 6, I knew special teams was going to be my primary role. I played a lot of it in San Diego before I was here, and it’s a role I like. I think I worked my way into the 49ers system pretty well and I think I feel like I’ve made an impact on this unit.

I try to be the first player down the field every time on special teams, and I don’t run down the field to not make the play. I want to make the tackle and do whatever I can to help this team. Kurt Schottenheimer’s system has helped me do that. He gives us the freedom and liberty to go out and make a play.

Arizona has one of the better special teams players in the league in LaRod Stephens-Howling. He is a great kickoff returner because he’s so quick and he has good vision. Also, his height gives him somewhat of an advantage because he’s so short you can’t always see him. He’s only 5-foot-7 so you don’t always know where he’s at, which gives him the ability to sneak through those holes. He’s a guy who makes things happen and he already has taken two back for touchdowns this year.

The Cardinals also have some good punt returners in wide receivers Andre Roberts and Steve Breaston. Breaston has been the man the last couple of years, but Roberts has returned almost all of them this year. Both guys are explosive, and more importantly they’re fearless. They aren’t the type to fair catch it a lot, and once they start running with it they’re fast.

And when you look at the guys blocking for their returners, they’re a solid group. There’s nothing too crazy about what they do schematically, but there just consistent in what they do. They bring it every play.

That’s sort of how we are on special teams too. We have guys who are just running down there trying to make plays. We’re consistent. There are a lot of guys on our special teams who don’t play much on offense or defense, and we all know that special teams is our role on the team and we’re thrilled about going out there and contributing.

A lot of those guys are young players too, and I’ve definitely seen a lot of improvement since I’ve been here. It’s hard to pick out one guy who has improved the most. Everybody from Anthony Dixon to Taylor Mays to NaVorro Bowman to Nate Byham gets better every week, which is great to see.

I’m not sure if Joe Nedney will be back kicking for us this week. If he is, I have full confidence in him. If it’s Shane Andrus again, I know he’ll do a good job too. But for us as a special teams unit, we just have to go out there and play hard no matter who is kicking. We can’t let things like that affect us.

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