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Bradley Pinion Evaluates Rookie Season with 49ers

It's rare to celebrate a great game for a punter, but San Francisco 49ers rookie Bradley Pinion deserves plenty of credit for his performance in Week 13 against the Chicago Bears.

The 2015 fifth-round pick punted the ball nine times, averaged 48.1 yards per kick, connected on a career-long of 62 yards and landed three of them inside Chicago's 20-yard line.

"I thought that was the best game he's played this year," Jim Tomsula told the media on Monday. "That's what we know Bradley can do. He can change the field for you, and he was able to do that. I felt really good for him in that area."

Pinion didn't go as far as his head coach, but was still pleased when analyzing his own performance.

"I thought I had a good game," Pinion said. "I was finally doing what I knew I was capable of. I felt comfortable and was ready to seize the moment."

The rookie out of Clemson has punted 69 times on the season – the fourth-most in the NFL – and owns an average of 44.6 yards per punt. Pinion's 21 punts inside the 20-yard line are tied for ninth-most in the NFL. 

Pinion also won the kickoff job during training camp. The rookie's 72.7 touchback percentage ranks fourth among kickers with at least 25 attempts.

"I feel like I've done well," Pinion said of his rookie season as a whole. "I could improve on consistency. I'm always gonna say that. It could be 20 years down the road, and I'm gonna say I could have been more consistent. That's just something I'm working on." 

In addition to his kick-off and punting duties, Pinion also holds for 18-year NFL veteran Phil Dawson. The kicker's meticulous approach to the game has rubbed off on the rookie.

"It's helped a ton," Pinion said. "I credit Phil with half of the success I've had this season. His mental preparation, I've taken over some of it. To be around a guy that's been in the league 18 years, I've learned so much."

Being a specialist in the NFL goes far beyond kicking and punting. It's everything from studying the field conditions to choosing the correct plant shoe.

"I prepare 100 times better now than I did in college," Pinion said. "It's things I took for granted in college but Phil has taught me how important that part is in the game."

Pinion was also asked what it will be like for Dawson to return to Cleveland for this weekend's game against the Browns. Dawson spent 14 seasons in Cleveland before signing with the 49ers in 2013.

This Sunday will be the kicker's first trip back to his old stomping grounds since coming to the Bay Area.

"He was there for 14 years, so I'm sure Cleveland loves him," Pinion said. "It's gonna be a good opportunity for Phil to go back and have a good game."

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