The 49ers Don't Have a Punt Returner

Maybe they should just fair catch every punt.
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SANTA CLARA -- Technically, the 49ers don't have a punt returner on their roster.

Last season, their punt returner was Richie James Jr., but he's on the Injured Reserve List now. And then there's Travis Benjamin, whom the 49ers can call up from the practice squad on game days, but he has a concussion and might not be healthy Week 1.

If Benjamin can't go, who will return punts?

A reporter asked veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on Thursday about his experience as a returner. Sanu fielded 10 punts in 2019, and an additional 29 punts in college. Which means, technically, he's a punt returner.

"I've done it pretty much all my life," Sanu said. "Started in little league, then high school, college. I've done it in the league. I've always caught punts."

"How do you feel about catching punts Week 1?" the reporter asked.

"If they ask me to do it, I'm going to do it."

The 49ers probably would have preferred Nsimba Webster to return punts had he cleared waivers and signed with the practice squad. But the Bears claimed him, and the 49ers got burned.

The 49ers also probably would like Brandon Aiyuk to return a punt or two, but he currently is out with a hamstring injury. 

So Sanu might be their best option. But he's not a particularly good option, as his career punt return average is a measly 5.6 yards. And the 49ers would have to risk fumbles and holding penalties just to get those 5.6 yards, so their best course of action might be to ask Sanu or whomever simply to fair catch the ball every time next Sunday in Detroit.

The 49ers have plenty of players who could do that.