NFC West: Kassim Osgood

As expected, the San Francisco 49ers found a way to bring special-teams ace Kassim Osgood back into the fold Friday, re-signing him a day after coach Jim Harbaugh said Osgood’s return was “imminent.”

The Niners, though, had to part with third-string quarterback Josh Johnson in the corresponding roster move.

Osgood was cut Wednesday to make room for another former 49ers special-teams ace – Bubba Ventrone – two days after Harbaugh called Osgood the team’s best special-teams player.

For those keeping score at home, Osgood has been cut and re-signed three times so far this season and it is the third time Johnson has been cut since training camp.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As expected, the San Francisco 49ers brought back special teams ace Kassim Osgood on Tuesday, the team announcing he was signed to a new one-year contract after he was cut on Saturday.

And in the corresponding roster move, the 49ers placed nose tackle Glenn Dorsey on the injured reserve/designated to return list as he continues to rehab from surgery to repair a torn left biceps suffered in early August. He cannot play in a game until after Week 8.

Osgood, meanwhile, had an inkling he would return to the Niners.

“I knew it was always a possibility,” he said. “Again, being able to work within the rules of the league, and being able to keep people that want to be here but let them go with the possibility of bringing them back is always on the horizon. I knew there was the potential for it to happen so it wasn’t a big deal for me.”

Besides, it happened last season, when the three-time Pro Bowl special teamer was released on Aug. 31 but re-signed 11 days later.

Osgood, 34, said other teams showed interest over the holiday weekend.

“But I wanted to stay here in San Francisco,” he said. “It’s a better fit for me.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Blake Costanzo is reuniting with several key figures from his NFL career.

The special team ace re-signed with the San Francisco 49ers on Tuesday. He was a star on special teams for the franchise in 2011. Not only is he back with several coaches and teammates from his first go around with the 49ers, but he is back with other people who he is close with. Fellow special teams ace Bubba Ventrone and Costanzo are close friends from their days with the Jets in 2006.

Costanzo, who was with the Bears last year, played for 49ers' special teams coach Brad Seely in Cleveland. They remain close.

"I text Seely all the time just to bust his chops," Costanzo said. "Whether it was about football, or just busting his chops about life in general. But I was in contact with him for sure."

The 49ers are stacked with solid special teamers such as Ventrone, Kassim Osgood and C.J. Spillman.

While a lot will shake out in training camp, there is a chance not all of the top special teamers will make the 53-man roster because of number's game.

For example, Osgood could have difficulty if Brandon Lloyd continues to shine at receiver. Lloyd has little chance of being the No. 3 receiver, but if he is a solid No. 4, Osgood could be pushed out.

49ers' offseason scorecard

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
Free agency isn’t 24 hours old and the San Francisco 49ers have been busy making roster changes. Let’s take a look at what has gone on so far:

Returning free agents: receiver Anquan Boldin, kicker Phil Dawson, cornerback Eric Wright.

Departed free agents: Safety Donte Whitner (Browns).

Released: Cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Free=agent addition: Safety Antoine Bethea (Colts).

Acquired in trade: Quarterback Blaine Gabbert from Jaguars; tackle Jonathan Martin from Miami.

Remaining free-agent priority: Cornerback Tarell Brown.

Other remaining free agents: Center Jonathan Goodwin, receiver Mario Manningham, quarterback Colt McCoy, receiver Kassim Osgood, running back Anthony Dixon, cornerback Perrish Cox.

Starting lineup changes: Bethea for Whitner; likely Daniel Kilgore for Goodwin.

49ers' veteran free-agent review

January, 31, 2014
Jan 31
The San Francisco 49ers had good success in veteran free agency in 2013. Let's take a look back at the impact the veteran acquisitions made in alphabetical order

Nnamdi Asomugha: This one didn't work out. Asomugha had nothing left and the 49ers cut him during the season. He didn't cost much, so it was not a major issue.

Craig Dahl: A backup and a special teamer. Solid addition.

Phil Dawson: He was a difference maker. He made 32 of 36 field goal attempts and he made 27 in a row. He was clutch all season. The team wants him back after he signed a one-year deal last year.

Glenn Dorsey: Another really fine addition. Dorsey, the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2008, came alive in San Francisco. His coaches raved about him as he stood out at nose tackle after Ian Williams was lost for season in Week 2.

Colt McCoy: He was the perfect backup quarterback -- he never played when it counted. I think the 49ers would like to upgrade from him moving forward, though.

Kassim Osgood: A fine special teamer. A key part of the team.

Dan Skuta: He was a valuable role player. He played outside linebacker when Aldon Smith missed five games to seek treatment for substance abuse. Skuta was also a key special teamer.

Adam Snyder: A role player who has been in the 49ers' system in the past. He played in five games when left guard Mike Iupati was injured.

Bubba Ventrone: Just like Osgood. A big reason why the special teams improved so greatly.

Eric Wright: The 49ers had high hopes for him, but he finished the season inactive. He is a free agent. It is far from a sure thing that he returns.

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 4
Preseason Power Ranking: 2

Biggest surprise: The impact that Michael Crabtree's injury and then his return had on the team. When Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles in May, the 49ers knew it would affect their offense. But his absence was felt dramatically during the 11 games he was out. The 49ers had essentially nothing behind receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. However, when he returned Dec. 1, the 49ers were instantly a better, more varied, dangerous offense. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was more confident. The difference was stark.

Biggest disappointment: The loss at New Orleans on Nov. 17. The 49ers appeared to have sealed the game when linebacker Ahmad Brooks sacked and forced New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees to fumble late. But Brooks was called for a questionable personal foul. The Saints rallied to win. It was a major storyline in the NFL that week. Had the 49ers won, they would have finished 13-3, won a tiebreaker over Seattle in the NFC West and would not have had to play at Seattle in the playoffs.

Biggest need: The 49ers are deep. They don't have many holes. But they can use another young receiver. Boldin is 33 and a free agent. Fourth-round pick Quinton Patton looks promising, but San Francisco will likely take a speed receiver early in the draft. Expect the team to take a cornerback fairly early as well. The 49ers need to develop a young player there.

Team MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The 25-year-old had an amazing season. He is an NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He was dominant in virtually every game. He is a special playmaker. It was a sad sight seeing him being carted off in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Seattle with a major knee injury. Bowman is expected back next season. The 49ers need him.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 14

December, 9, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 19-17 win over Seattle:

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco's Kassim Osgood
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezKassim Osgood's blocked punt led to a field goal.
Gore comes through: In the previous three games, the San Francisco 49ers’ ground game struggled. Sunday, though, it helped fuel the win over the Seahawks. Starter Frank Gore had a 51-yard run on the 49ers’ final drive to set up the game-winning field goal. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 49ers had 137 rushing yards before contact. It was a season worst for the Seattle defense.

Osgood factor: San Francisco's special teams are much improved. That has helped the 49ers all season, and Sunday was no different. Special teams ace Kassim Osgood had a blocked punt in the first quarter, which led to a field goal. Had Osgood not blocked the punt, the 49ers may not have won this tight game. Osgood has been making plays all season, but this one was his biggest.

Dawson is on fire: Speaking of outstanding special teams play, kicker Phil Dawson continues to be one of the 49ers’ most vital players. He had four field goals Sunday, including the game winner with 26 seconds remaining in the game. Dawson has made 20 straight field goal attempts. He has been a major upgrade over David Akers.

Message sent: Niners guard Alex Boone said 49ers players told Seattle players after the game that they will see them in Seattle in the postseason. It could happen. If so, the 49ers will be confident based on this performance. Yes, the 49ers have been beaten by a combined score of 71-16 in the past two games in Seattle, but Sunday’s win shows San Francisco can still play with the Seahawks.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 11

November, 18, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 loss at New Orleans:

Costly penalties: The 49ers committed two colossal penalties in the final few minutes that turned a 20-17 lead into a loss. First, there was some controversy. The 49ers appeared to get the ball on a turnover with about three minutes to go. But linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for a personal foul for a hit to Drew Brees' neck that gave the Saints new life. It was a questionable call because it appeared Brooks hit Brees' shoulder more than the neck. New Orleans ended the drive with a game-tying field goal with 2:06 to go. After the 49ers went three-and-out on the ensuing series, San Francisco special teams ace Kassim Osgood blew into New Orleans punt returner Darren Sproles, who had called for a fair catch at the Saints’ 25. Osgood was called for a 15-yard penalty with 1:48 to go. It gave the Saints good field position and led to the winning field goal. The 49ers complained about the call on Brooks, but it was close and a superstar quarterback like Brees is going to get that call at home.

Slow offensive start: The 49ers had just 18 yards of offense in the first quarter. They had 45 yards in the second half of a loss to Carolina last week. The 49ers didn’t get their first first down at New Orleans until the second quarter. The 49ers did make some progress as the game went on, but they had five three-and-outs, including one on their final drive of the game.

Bad challenges: It wasn’t the smoothest game for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. He swung and missed on two first-half challenges. The Saints ended up scoring a touchdown on the San Francisco defense when Harbaugh had his first unsuccessful challenge. His other failed challenge didn’t matter. The 49ers scored a touchdown on the next play.

Injuries mount: The 49ers have dealt with a lot of injuries this season, and Sunday was no different. Guard Mike Iupati had to be carted to the locker room with a left knee injury. He left the stadium on crutches and had a brace on his knee. Adam Snyder took his place. Starting cornerback Tarell Brown had a rib injury. The 49ers are deep at cornerback, so if both players are out for an extended time, Iupati’s loss might hurt the team more.
Jim HarbaughJohn David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsAfter riding a five-game win streak to a 6-2 record, Jim Harbaugh's 49ers have dropped two close games in a row.
NEW ORLEANS -- If the San Francisco 49ers are going back to the Super Bowl, they will have to win three playoff games on the road.

That was the situation going into Sunday’s game at New Orleans and it remained that way after the 49ers lost their second straight playoff-like game.

There’s no doubt the 49ers were a discouraged, emotionally spent bunch as they prepared for a long, unpleasant flight home. San Francisco tamed the great New Orleans offense in its own habitat, but still saw a winnable game turn into a 23-20 defeat when the Saints kicked a short field goal as time expired. New Orleans scored three field goals in the final 7:50 to take the victory away from the 49ers, who made two crucial 15-yard penalties to assist the Saints in the final six points.

Last week the 49ers lost, 10-9, at home to Carolina in another game they could have easily won with the right break or key play.

The result? San Francisco staggering into the second half of the season after finishing the first half as one of the hottest teams in the NFL. After starting 1-2, the 49ers ripped off five straight blowout wins. Suddenly, they are 6-4 and find themselves in a fight for the last playoff spot.

San Francisco can forget about winning the NFC West. Seattle improved to 10-1 on Sunday and the 49ers trail the Seahawks by 3 ½ games. The race is over. If the 49ers are getting back to the playoffs it will be as one of two wild-card entries.

And there’s competition for the spots. Carolina is 6-3 heading into a Monday night game against New England and owns the tiebreaker over the 49ers. Chicago and Detroit are tied for first place in the NFC North at 6-4. Arizona is also 6-4.

Because of the turn of events, there is certainly pressure the 49ers didn’t feel two weeks ago during their bye week. At 6-2, they looked like a postseason shoo-in. But after losses to two playoff-quality teams, the 49ers are no less of a contender.

“At the end of the day, it’s just one loss,” 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said. “We’ve got six weeks to play for. We know the ultimate goal is to win as many games as you can and get into the playoffs.”

In my opinion, this is still a playoff team. Losses to the Panthers and the Saints didn’t change my mind. The 49ers look worthy of the postseason.

The good news for San Francisco is the schedule eases up. The 49ers play at Washington on "Monday Night Football" in Week 12 and then come home to host St. Louis before playing Seattle. The only other team with a winning record remaining on San Francisco’s schedule is Arizona on the road in Week 17.

Thus, the 49ers are still in good shape. Yes, observers will talk about how they can’t beat a good team. San Francisco is now 2-4 against teams with winning records and 4-0 against teams with losing records.

There’s no doubt the 49ers have some areas to fix to be able to win tight games down the stretch. A lack of discipline bit San Francisco late as the Saints converted two field goals in the final 2:06 to complete a comeback after the 49ers took a 20-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

There was a controversial moment late. The 49ers appeared to get the ball on a turnover with about three minutes to go. But linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for a personal foul for a hit to Drew Brees' neck that gave the Saints new life. It was a questionable call because it appeared Brooks hit Brees' shoulder more than the neck. New Orleans ended the drive with a game-tying field goal with 2:06 to go.

Brooks and the 49ers were not happy with the call. Brees, on the other hand, said he fully expected it to be a penalty because he said he was hit in the neck.

After the 49ers went three-and-out on the ensuing series -- punctuated by quarterback Colin Kaepernick running out of bounds to stop the clock on third down, giving the Saints more time on their final drive -- San Francisco special-teams ace Kassim Osgood blew into New Orleans punt returner Darren Sproles, who had called for a fair catch, at the Saints’ 25. Osgood was called for a 15-yard penalty with 1:48 to go. It gave the Saints good field position and led to the winning field goal.

Brees doesn’t need much help. Giving him two 15-yard penalties with the game on the line is no way to live.

But this loss wasn’t the fault of the 49ers’ defense. It held the Saints’ offense to two touchdowns. It did enough to win, just like against Carolina.

Last week’s loss was squarely on the 49ers’ offense, which managed just three field goals against Carolina after scoring 31 points or more per game during San Francisco's five-game winning streak. On Sunday, the 49ers’ offense started slowly again. It had 18 yards in the first quarter (it had 45 yards in the second half last week) and the 49ers didn’t convert a first down until early in the second quarter. The unit did pick up, though, and kept pace with the Saints.

Still, Kaepernick struggled at times. He was 1-for-7 on passes of 15 yards or more. On the final drive, the 49ers had little spark.

“We made it difficult on ourselves at times,” Kaepernick said. “We didn’t execute like we should have.”

Kaepernick and the offense need some fine-tuning down the stretch. But the truth is, this isn’t a team in a deep-rooted funk. It has had some misfires at bad times against two good teams. But the season is far from out of the 49ers’ grasp. Coach Jim Harbaugh senses that.

"I thought they played their hearts out,” Harbaugh said of his team. “Keep fighting.”

If the 49ers pay attention to the details, they should get the opportunity to fight into the postseason.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The San Francisco 49ers' defense has evolved this season.

In the recent past, the 49ers were famous for not rotating many players on defense. But injuries have given several young players a chance to play. The youngsters have helped keep up San Francisco’s strong standard of defense; the unit has not slipped despite the infusion of youth.

One of those players is defensive tackle Tony Jerod-Eddie. And it's likely he will get another chance to make a contribution Sunday against New Orleans.

It appears Ray McDonald will not play because of a high left-ankle sprain. McDonald is a big part of the 49ers’ defense, but Jerod-Eddie has played well. He and Demarcus Dobbs spelled McDonald when he was hurt early against Carolina on Sunday. Jerod-Eddie also played when Glenn Dorsey was hurt earlier in the season and didn’t let the overall line play dip.

The 49ers expect the same thing to happen Sunday with McDonald likely out.

In other notes:
  • The cuts of Kyle Williams and Perrish Cox may bode well for special-teamer Kassim Osgood. He was a surprise inactive player Sunday, but the fact that two players were cut Tuesday that were active Sunday shows that the 49ers still have plans for Osgood.
  • Williams and Cox were the backup punt returners. Now cornerbacks Eric Wright and Tarell Brown will backup LaMichael James on punts. Williams was claimed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who had the 32nd and final claiming priority. If they didn’t claim him, Williams would have become a free agent. Williams joins former teammates Alex Smith and A.J. Jenkins in Kansas City. Cox went unclaimed.
  • The 49ers are practicing with 52 players on the active roster. Coach Jim Harbaugh said a decision will be made later in the week. Derek Carrier remains a candidate to be promoted from the practice squad if Garrett Celek can’t play because of a hamstring injury.
  • Running back Marcus Lattimore said Wednesday he still hopes to get on the field. Next week is the last week Lattimore can begin practicing. He is not expected to play until next season, having suffered a dislocated right kneecap and three torn knee ligaments.

49ers could add a tight end

November, 11, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t offer much in the form of updates Monday on the concussions suffered by star tight end Vernon Davis and standout rookie safety Eric Reid in a 10-9 home loss to Carolina on Sunday.

Harbaugh did say the thought of adding a tight end to the roster for Sunday’s game at New Orleans is an “option.” In addition to Davis, backup tight end Garrett Celek left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. It is likely he will be out longer than Davis, even if Davis can’t play at New Orleans.

The first option the 49ers look at could be Derek Carrier, who is on the team’s practice squad. The highly athletic Carrier is on his third NFL practice squad since entering the league in 2012. He has no NFL game experience.

Both Davis and Reid will go through the NFL’s concussion protocol before being able to play. Reid’s situation is complicated because this is his second concussion of the season. He suffered one in Week 2 against Seattle, so his return could be delayed some. Craig Dahl finished the game for Reid.

Meanwhile, asked Monday if receiver Michael Crabtree could be activated this week, Harbaugh said, “We’ll see.” Crabtree began to practice last week. He must be activated by Nov. 26. Playing Sunday at New Orleans would be considered a long shot.

However, Harbaugh said he anticipates rookie linebacker Nick Moody will be activated this week. So, if the 49ers activate Moody and add a tight end, two players will have to be removed from the roster. It will be interesting to see what the 49ers do with special- teamer Kassim Osgood, who is on his second stint with the 49ers this season. He was inactive Sunday, and the special-teams coverage units appeared to miss him.
LONDON – The San Francisco 49ers roster is about to change.

The 6-2 49ers -- who have won five straight games going into their bye week -- are poised to get much better. They have six players who are likely to come off various different injury/illness lists including linebacker Aldon Smith, receivers Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree, cornerback Eric Wright, rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine and rookie linebacker Nick Moody.

The 49ers will have to subtract from the 53-man roster with each activation. It will be interesting because this is a deep roster and some good, young players will be out. But that’s the trouble with having a good team. There’s no doubt the 49ers will get markedly better with the return of most of these players.

Here are some candidates to be removed from the roster: Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, receivers Marlon Moore and Quinton Patton (only if he is put on the injured reserve because his foot is not responding), linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, No. 3 quarterback McLeod Bethel-Thompson and defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs.

The most likely to go are Asomugha, Moore and Cunningham. They have not had a role in the past several weeks.

Complicating matters (again, which is a positive in the big picture) is the special teams coverage units are much improved. So players like Kassim Osgood, Bubba Ventrone, Darryl Morris, Nate Stupar and Anthony Dixon will be difficult to cut even though their role is nearly all special teams. The 49ers know improved special teams make them much more dangerous and that’s difficult to tinker with.

The roster roulette will likely start to occur next week. Manningham, Wright and Carradine all must be activated by early next week.

49ers' special teams vastly improve

October, 11, 2013
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Through five games, the San Francisco 49ers’ emphasis on improving the coverage units on special teams has been a success.

The unit is allowing 21.4 yards per kickoff return. Last year, it gave up a whopping 26.9 yards per return. Against punts, the 49ers are strong as well, allowing 7.4 yards per return.

The unit was particularly strong the past two weeks, at St. Louis and against Houston. Monday, 49ers’ coach Jim Harbaugh heaped by praise on the unit.

It has to be satisfying for the coaching start after a rough 2012 season, which culminated in allowing a kickoff return in a Super Bowl loss to Baltimore.

The unit has been fast and looks to be working together. Newcomers Kassim Osgood and Bubba Ventrone have been fine additions be a unit that has been led by C.J. Spillman, who is having another strong season.

“I think the key is we have good players,” Ventrone said. “We’re pleased with everything so far. We’re playing as one.”

He noted that the 49ers’ coverage unit will be challenged Sunday by Arizona punt returner Patrick Peterson. Ventrone said he thinks Peterson may be the best punt returner in the NFL.

“It’s going to be a stiff test,” Ventrone said. “We can’t play a guy like that cautiously. We have to stay true to our plan and execute.”

Thus far, that plan was produced strong results for this revamped unit.

49ers' kick coverage gets better

September, 12, 2013
One of the few cleanup projects the San Francisco 49ers had on their list after the 2012 season got off to a good start in Week 1 of 2013.

The 49ers covered kickoffs much better against the Green Bay Packers than they did last year, when they ranked 31st in the NFL. San Francisco allowed an ugly 26.9 yards per kickoff, and of course gave up a kickoff return for a score in the Super Bowl loss to Baltimore.

Sunday, the 49ers allowed Green Bay just 13.3 yards per return in a 34-28 victory -- excellent improvement.

The 49ers will have to adjust some this week when they visit Seattle. Rookie linebacker Nick Moody, one of San Francisco's special-teamers, is out for seven weeks with a broken hand. The 49ers did bring back Kassim Osgood, a special-teams ace they cut earlier this month. They should be in good shape with Osgood in kick coverage.

If the 49ers can continue to improve in this area, it could go a long way toward their overall success.

2013 NFL age rankings at reduction to 53

September, 1, 2013
The mandatory reduction to 53-man active rosters Saturday provides an opportunity to pass along average age ranks for NFL active rosters overall as well as for offense, defense and specialists.

The chart shows the Detroit Lions as the oldest team and the St. Louis Rams as the youngest. Where the Rams rank comes as no surprise if you've been following their building process in the NFC West recently.

The Seattle Seahawks rank among the younger teams overall. They have the youngest offensive players after releasing fullback Michael Robinson.

The rankings exclude players placed on various reserve lists (physically unable to perform, non-football injury, injured and suspended). Note also that rankings are based on ages calculated to the day, not rounded backward to the nearest birthday. A player born in January will be older than a player born in October of the same year, for example. I've taken into account the difference in making these calculations. Rounding backward to the nearest birthday shaves about a half-year off the average ages.

I've shaded the NFC West teams in the chart for easier reference.

While the Arizona Cardinals did part with older players such as Adrian Wilson, they still have veteran flavor with Yeremiah Bell, John Abraham, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Larry Fitzgerald and the NFL's oldest specialists.

Seattle got younger by releasing Robinson and 36-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield. No player on the active roster has had his 32nd birthday. By comparison, six San Francisco 49ers are at least 32 years old.

The 49ers parted with 36-year-old long snapper Brian Jennings, 33-year-old Kassim Osgood and 33-year-old Seneca Wallace. They also added some veteran players this offseason, including Anquan Boldin, Phil Dawson, Nnamdi Asomugha and Adam Snyder. Asomugha and 32-year-old Carlos Rogers help give the 49ers the NFL's oldest defensive backs by average age. We should expect the team to get younger there over the next year, possibly by using an early draft choice for a cornerback.

Note: I have not visited courthouses to pull birth records for NFL players. Neither have teams. As someone who has tracked dates of birth for NFL players since 2007, I know there are times when listed birth dates change or conflict with records listed elsewhere. I make efforts to verify the dates. The team rankings at the extremes are more valuable than the ones in the middle because there is very little difference in average age for some teams.