For three seasons starting in 2010, the 49ers had little doubt as to who would be the focal point in the return game. Ted Ginn Jr. was the man for the job.
It’s not altogether confirmed who will be fulfilling this role for San Francisco when Ginn and the team he signed with this offeason, the Carolina Panthers, visit Candlestick Park on Sunday for an intra-conference Week 10 matchup.
That’s not to say options are limited. There are a few.
“The 49ers have great special teams,” Ginn said on a conference call with Bay Area reporters on Wednesday morning. “Brad Seely will have his guys up and running.”
A few of Ginn's former teammates appear in the running to return punts and kickoffs. Wideout
“All those options are open,” Jim Harbaugh said of his specialists for Sunday’s game, “and I’m not going to divulge that information.”
Ginn, meanwhile, is the Panthers’ mainstay at both spots. He is averaging 8.3 yards per punt return and 24.7 on kickoffs.
Because the 49ers were a Super Bowl contender during his tenure, Ginn said, he was happy with this role in San Francisco. This is not to say he didn't miss playing wide receiver. The Ohio State product recorded two receptions for one yard with San Francisco in 2012; he already has 21 catches for 367 yards through Week 9 in 2013.
“I was being a team player,” he said of his 49ers days. “My goal was to go out and (whichever team) I went to, to give them an opportunity to feature Ted Ginn. I believe I can play receiver. I’ve played it, I enjoy it, and I just want more of an opportunity.”
Ginn got his chance during training camp when two Carolina wideouts ahead of him on the depth chart, Armanti Edwards and David Gettis, were injured. He found himself earning the No. 3 role behind starters Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell.
"He makes a couple catches on crossing routes (in a preseason game) and with that great speed, he runs by people," Ginn's current coach, Ron Rivera, said. "Now all of a sudden we have a different threat.
"He's been a great addition. He's been tremendous for us... You're opening your eyes and going, 'Wow.' Honestly, you kind of think, 'Where's all this been during his career?' The biggest thing Ted said to us was just (getting) the opportunity."
As for facing his forming team, comprising friends he still keeps in touch with, Ginn said he expects San Francisco’s best whether outside linebacker
“I know what the defense is about, what they bring,” Ginn said. “They’re going to come out full-force.”
As for comparing his last two signal-callers – Ginn was asked if Cam Newton is better than
“A lot of quarterbacks don’t run like these guys,” he said.