SANTA CLARA -– The 49ers’ only proven return man will not be made available for the team’s exhibition opener against the Texans on Saturday night.
Veteran running back Reggie Bush, who is listed atop the 49ers’ depth chart at punt return and kickoff return, will not suit up against the Houston Texans, coach Jim Tomsula said on Thursday.
Bush is being held out because Tomsula said he does not need to see Bush play.
"I’m not playing that guy," Tomsula said. "I know who that guy is. I know exactly who that guy is. I know exactly what that guy does. You’ve seen in practice and he’s doing those things."
Bruce Ellington, who handled the return chores for the 49ers last season, will be among the 10 players who will remain back in the Bay Area to continue rehabilitation work. Ellington has a leg muscle strain that has kept him out of action for a week.
Bush is slated to be the 49ers’ top return man despite returning one kickoff in his nine-year career. He has not returned a punt since handling six for the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
“Right now, out of the gate, before we do anything live, people are going to get tackled and field punts or kickoffs, the guy most proven on our team is Reggie Bush,” Tomsula said.
“Reggie is not going to have shoulder pads on this week. Jarryd Hayne is going to be catching some kind of a punt. Alabama (DeAndrew White) is going to be catching some kind of a punt or a kickoff. So we’ve got a proven entity there. Let’s see where these other guys are.”
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman might not play in Saturday’s game, either. Tomsula was non-committal when asked about Bowman’s availability. Bowman, who missed all of last season while rehabbing a severe knee injury, is practicing without limitations. But Tomsula said this game is more about seeing some of the younger players who need to be evaluated.
“I’m going back and forth on it,” Tomsula said. “That’s another guy who will play in the preseason. There’s no doubt about that. We’re going to get on a plane and fly down to Houston the day before the game. We’re going to get off the plane. It’s a quick turnaround. Obviously, he’s been practicing very well and moving very well. We’re seeing all those things. . . . If he plays, it’s going to be a short block of plays.”
The 10 players will remain in Santa Clara to rehab, Tomsula said, are running back Kendall Hunter, wide receivers Ellington, Dres Anderson and DeAndre Smelter, center Daniel Kilgore, linebackers Aaron Lynch, Michael Wilhoite, Philip Wheeler and Nick Bellore, and defensive back Jimmie Ward.