Each week 49ers.com will feature 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. In the first Teams Talk installment of the 2009 season, return specialist Allen Rossum shares his thoughts for Sunday?s matchup with the Arizona Cardinals.**
On special teams, this game will be the first regular season game with some of the new special teams rules the NFL created this offseason.
One of them, the new wedge rule, kind of changes things because you can?t get more than two people in the wedge. But, from what I?ve seen so far in the preseason, teams are kind of sneaky right now. They?ll have four guys back there and have about a foot in between them so they can say that these guys are not really together. But, for us, we?ve never really been a big wedge team here. It doesn?t affect us as much.
I?d be lying if I told you I haven?t gone back and watched film of my kickoff return for a touchdown I had against Arizona last season on Monday Night Football. Maybe I?ll get another opportunity to do that again. I always want to help your team as much as possible and so if the holes are there, I?ll do my best to take any kick or punt to the end zone.
As a team, we got off to a very fast start last year with the opening kickoff return. Of course it will be in the back of my mind, but that?s last year. I?ve got to do more than last year. One, we didn?t make the playoffs. Two, I didn?t go to the Pro Bowl. I wouldn?t say it was all for not. But the most important thing; we didn?t even win the game. I wish we would have one that game. It?s in the back of my mind, but it?s not the controlling factor having me go into this game thinking that the same thing is going to happen.
I know they?re going to have 11 guys really pumped up because we did score on the opening kickoff last year. A couple of guys, especially Sean Morey, one of their special teams core guys, is going to have those guys really fired up. I?m just looking forward to going out and executing the scheme and whatever happens just happens.
Last week San Diego opened the game with a quick kick and that?s something we have to be ready for, because Arizona recovered one against us last year.
It?s kind of a form of flattery when a team does that against you. It has nothing to do with me. I?ve been a part of teams when we did something not because of the other team, but to just have someone prepare for it. We ran a throwback pass on a kickoff return knowing that we were never going to run it in the regular season when it counted. I?ve seen that many times and so it didn?t bother me. I know our guys will be ready for it if it happens again.
One thing that their kicker Neil Rackers does well is that after he kicks the ball he goes down and covers. That?s a rarity in the NFL. As soon as you come through the hole, you see this guy sitting there and you?re not expecting him. Most of the time teams don?t have a blocker for the kicker. One time I hit the hole and he was standing right in front of me. That was a little different!
Their punter Ben Graham has a very strong leg. He punts well going to one side more than the other. He does a great job of punting the ball very far and the cover team does a great job of covering. The same thing can be said for their kickoffs. They get a lot of deep kicks into the end zone. Actually the one that I scored on was deep in the end zone. Most of the time you would just kneel on a kick like that, but I was too hyped and so I took it out.
To win this game on Sunday, we have to continue to create good field position for our team. If we have the opportunity to receive the ball on the punt return we have to create at least one first down. And on kick return we have to create at least two to three first downs for the offense. When we are covering, we have to do our best to make sure that they have a long field to drive for the score. The higher the percentage goes for the other team to score with every yard closer they are to start the drive. If they get it to the 40-yard line, then one or two first downs later and they are already in field goal range. We want to do our best to avoid that.