SANTA CLARA – One day after 49ers special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey suggested punt returner Bruce Ellington was one fumbled punt away from a demotion, head coach Jim Tomsula disagreed with that categorization.
“I hope he didn’t say that,” Tomsula said Thursday of McGaughey. “That would be ... I would not want him to have said that. I’m sure he didn’t say it like that.”
On Wednesday, McGaughey was asked if it was time to start looking at other players to handle the punt return chores after Ellington fumbled twice in two weeks.
“You put the ball on the ground again, yeah, that’s just the reality of what we do,” McGaughey said. “You can look at the kid in New England (Chris Harper) last week. He ain’t got a job. If Bruce were standing right here next to me, I’d say the same thing: ‘You got to take care of the ball. Everybody’s got a job to do. Do your job.’”
Tomsula said Ellington is the team’s return man, and he just needs to focus on catching the ball with the correct technique. Ellington muffed a punt Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals when he tried to catch it at approximately shoulder height with his hands extended.
“We just need to catch the ball the proper way. Get the hands down,” Tomsula said. “He’s been coached on it. Bruce is our punt returner and he needs to field the ball with the hands in the proper place.”