SANTA CLARA – When the 49ers selected Bradley Pinion in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL draft, he was the first punter taken by the club since Andy Lee in 2004.
Now that Lee has been traded to Cleveland, Pinion is the only punter on the roster during OTAs this week, and he could very well be the starter in Week 1. He didn’t learn about the Lee trade until the day it happened on June 6.
“I had no idea,” Pinion said. “It was one of those things where I was just ready to compete.”
While there isn’t any internal competition for the 6-foot-5, 229-pounder now, he’s still trying to acclimate himself to his new surroundings. Fortunately, he has 40-year-old placekicker Phil Dawson to lean on, who is nearly two decades ahead in age of the 21-year-old.
“Just from one day being with Phil, I’ve learned so much,” Pinion said. “Being with a veteran and a guy like Phil is just something that I couldn’t ask for anything better in my rookie year.”
Pinion has also been holding for Dawson. That’s not a role he’s unfamiliar with, saying that he held “every day in practice at Clemson.”
In college, Pinion averaged 41.1 yards per kick in 34 games. While that number doesn’t exactly leap off the page, Pinion indicated that he wasn’t going for distance on a large portion of his attempts.
“I had a lot of short field punts in college,” said Pinion, who had 55 punts inside the 20-yard line with only two touchbacks. “It was just the way Clemson was. We had a high-powered offense where we were always around that that midfield range. We hardly ever had a backed up punt.
“I’m the type of person that’s going to do whatever I can to help my team. If I have a 30-yard average that game but five punts inside the 20, that’s a good game to me.”
Pinion could also potentially be used as a kickoff specialist.
“I’ve done a lot of kickoffs since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s something that I hope I can do for the team, and hope I can help the team in kickoffs. I want to do it if I can help the team.”