In this week's Teams Talk column, rookie safety Chris Maragos shares his thoughts on the special teams aspect of the 49ers upcoming game against the Green Bay Packers.
I've spent most of the season on the practice squad, but I'm up on the 53-man roster now and it looks like I could be making my NFL debut on Sunday. If it happens, I'll be extremely excited. I started playing tackle football in second grade, so I developed a passion for the game at a young age. I've always wanted to play football at the highest level and it was one of my dreams to play in the NFL, so just to have the opportunity to do that makes me feel blessed.
I'm from Wisconsin, I went to the University of Wisconsin, and to possibly start my career at Green Bay, that would be great. I'm going to have a lot of family and friends there supporting me either way, so I feel like it's definitely going to be a memorable day.
I know my role will primarily be on special teams this week, and it's a role I'm embracing because I know how important all three phases of the game are. You can think about like this: there are different parts of the body and everybody can't be an arm, everybody can't be a leg, everybody can't be the heart. But everyone fits in somewhere, and the different parts have to work together to make the body whole and to function properly.
I know special teams can really swing field position and momentum of the game, so I'm going to go out there and attack it with everything I have and be accountable for my assignments.
That's the mentality we all have on special teams, and that is what has allowed us to improve every week. The best part about having a lot of young guys out there on special teams is that weekly growth and the fact that we're hungry to get after it. There's no quit in this group and we're always striving to get better.
When I take a look at Green Bay's special teams, I see a group of guys like us who just go out there and compete. They go all-out on every play, but I think we match up well against them.
I think a lot of special teams has to do with the schemes to put you in good position to make plays, but after that it is all about the mentality. Most of the time you get a one-on-one battle and it's just you against another guy. You have to go into every play knowing you're going to beat your man, and that's how you win the special teams battles.
The Packers have some solid returners in Tramon Williams and Jordy Nelson. Williams returns punts and he is a guy who is very elusive; he has some great speed and he is a very good athlete. Then they have Nelson returning kickoffs and he is another good athlete too, but he is also a big, strong guy who moves very well for his size. They are two different types of returners, but they're both effective and we really want to slow them down.
As far as our return game goes, we sprung Ted Ginn Jr. for a couple of long returns last week and we're looking to keep that going. You love to block for a guy like Ted because when you look back see a guy who can take it the distance it's exciting. You know how much those big returns spark the team so you do whatever you can to help get one.
It looks like our kicker Joe Nedney may be sidelined again this week, and that does hurt a little. Not only is Joe a great kicker, he has so much experience and he provides some great veteran leadership to the group. But the coaching staff brought in Jeff Reed who has also proven himself in this league. He's won two Super Bowls, so that says a lot about what type of kicker he is. He's been very consistent throughout his nine-year career and I think he will help us out a lot this weekend.
But as I said earlier, it's not just about one kicker of one returner, all 11 guys on the field have to play their best in order to have success on special teams. I think it's all about accountability. If everyone does their job you'll be successful as a collective unit. And for me, with it potentially being my first NFL game, I'm excited to get out there and compete and help this team win.