SANTA CLARA – Coach Jim Tomsula said he has made his decision on how the 49ers will operate their return game in the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings at Levi's Stadium.
But 49ers fans will have to find out along with the Vikings on Monday night.
“We’ve made a decision, yeah,” Tomsula said on Tuesday. “It’s the same group you’ve seen. All the guys have done a nice job with that.”
Jarryd Hayne, Bruce Ellington and rookie DeAndrew White each returned punts and kickoffs for the 49ers during the four-game exhibition season. In addition, Reggie Bush was back deep for two punt returns in the 49ers’ third preseason game against Denver. (He returned one, and let the other bounce in front of him.)
Only 46 of the 53 players on any team’s roster is allowed to suit up for games, and special teams plays a huge role in figuring out which backup players will be in uniform.
“To me, the way every 46 works all the way through the week, obviously, you start the beginning of the week with an idea of who that’s going to be,” Tomsula said. “Off of game plan and the way you want to attack, special teams, that also can change week-to-week throughout the season.
“There’s always a thought process at the beginning, but that’s why you don’t say anything until the game.”
Tomsula said the 49ers could use more than one return man during the course of a game, too.
Here’s a look at how the candidates fared on returns during the exhibition season:
White 4 returns, 2 fair catches, 91 yards, 22.8 avg, 36 long
Hayne 9 returns, 1 fair catch, 163 yards, 18.1 avg, 34 long
Ellington 3 returns, 0 fair catches, 44 yards, 14.7 avg, 26 long
Bush 1 return, 0 fair catches, 4 yards, 4.0 avg, 4 long
Hayne 1 return, 33 yards, 33.0 avg, 33 long
White 5 returns, 111 yards, 22.2 avg, 30 long
Ellington 2 returns, 41 yards, 20.5 avg, 21 long