A sometimes overlooked aspect of the game is special teams, but not this season, and not on 49ers.com. Each week, we'll feature Teams Talk, a column dedicated to special teams and those who play on them. These teamers will share their breakdowns of the upcoming opponent and give you some insight on some aspects of special teams you might not be too familiar with. This week's special teams captain, Delanie Walker, checks in along with TE Billy Bajema to share details about their special teams roles and their thoughts on the Cleveland Browns.
TE Delanie Walker, Special Teams Captain
Josh Cribbs is their returner on both punt and kickoffs. He's had a good season this year and will be going to the Pro Bowl. He's very fast and he's hard to tackle so we have to be very physical when we go up against him.
It's not surprising to see him have the type of year that he's having. He's a very determined player and that's paying off. He also has very good guys blocking for him. When you are already a gifted returner and you have good blocking in front of you, you're going to be successful. We have to wrap up our tackles and just execute our assignments.
Their punter is Dave Zastudil. He's left-footed so we expect to see a lot of punts to his left. Keith Lewis rushes on that side so hopefully he can get his hands up and block a punt this week.
I line up on the outside on the punt return team. I'll be going against one of Cleveland's fullbacks who usually plays the wing position on their punt team. I'll just have to try to punish him as much as I can and win that battle.
Things have been going really well for me this year on special teams, and we've been playing very well as a unit. We're ranked highly in just about every category on special teams and we take a lot of pride in that. My role on special teams this year was a lot larger. I feel like I've done a good job at going out there and just taking care of my assignments.
On kickoff, I'm the king of "button press." That means I go out and try to punish whoever is in front of me. I'm going to set the edge and try to knock the other team back as far as I can and set the edge, not letting anything outside of me.
Coach Nolan made the announcement that I would be special teams captain after practice on Friday. Considering how well we've played on special teams and how many other great players we have, that's a big achievement for me. Vernon Davis was very excited for me so we did a little in-air chest bump. It's my first time being captain. I'm very happy and I just want to finish this year off with a bang.
TE Billy Bajema, Core Special Teams Player
I play in the wedge on the kickoff retun team. The wedge is very different than just about every other position I've played in football. It's very physical because you go full speed into other guys. I'm back there with Moran Norris and Brandon Moore and it's just an attitude where you have to step up and bang people. The return starts with us. We have to have a good relationship with the kick returner and go full speed ahead and get things started.
A lot of people may not know that I'm also the backup long snapper. I had never been a long snapper before I got to the NFL, but I started working on it in the offseason between my first and second year here and I've just continued to try to get better. It was difficult at first. It's something that takes a lot of work. We have a great snapper in Brian Jennings who I can watch and learn a lot from. He taught me just about everything about snapping, and I try to model what I do off of Brian's technique.
It's something I work on a couple of times a week, as well as right before the game. It's never come up but it's something that you have to have on a football team in case something happens. It's something that I'll be ready to do if I'm ever called upon.
I also play on the kickoff unit which is uncommon for tight ends. Usually defensive guys are on kickoff team because they're used to tackling and used to playing a physical type of game, but that's something that I like to do as well. It's a lot of fun.
I also play on the field goal protection unit, which requires great technique every time you go out on the field, and you have to be able to do it consistently. First up, you have to take responsibility for your gaps and stay low in order to give the holder and the kicker enough time to get it off. As a fan, you may not think about the protection all the time, but it's something that has to be right. Cleveland had a field goal blocked earlier in the year, and it's something that can really hurt you so we take a lot of pride in not giving up any blocks.