Devon Wylie is looking for a place where he can unpack.
After being cut by Kansas City on Sept. 1, the former Granite Bay High wide receiver has jumped from Arizona’s practice squad to Pittsburgh’s to Tennessee’s and, for two days last week, to Seattle’s. He now finds himself trying to make a more lasting impression for the 49ers, who added him to their practice squad Tuesday.
“It’s been rough, man,” Wylie said Thursday. “I know a lot of teams have been bringing me on to these practice squads, basically as an extended tryout. And for one reason or another they need to bring in another guy because someone gets hurt. And I get booted.”
After Wylie turned heads at the 2012 scouting combine with a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, the Chiefs drafted him in the fourth round. He was injured for most of his rookie season. Then Kansas City went through a coaching and front-office change at the end of the year, and Wylie wasn’t part of the plans.
During Wylie’s stint in Tennessee, the Titans bumped him to the active roster, and he handled both kick- and punt-return duties Nov. 14 against Indianapolis. Wylie’s fumbled kick return in the third quarter led to the Colts’ go-ahead touchdown, and 12 days later Wylie was released.
The 49ers got a look at Wylie on Aug. 16. They dominated the Chiefs in the preseason game, but Wylie stood out with a 52-yard punt return to the 49ers’ 39-yard line in the third quarter. Wylie said he suspects his punt-return ability is what has made him a popular tryout candidate. During his final year at Fresno State, he was fifth in the nation with a 15.4-yard punt-return average, and he returned two for touchdowns.
LaMichael James is the 49ers’ punt returner, and he is the leading candidate to handle that role next season. But the team doesn’t have a clear alternative. Cornerbacks Eric Wright and Tarell Brown can do it in a pinch. But Brown, a free agent in March, is not expected back next year. Wright, also a pending free agent, could return, but if he has a big role on defense next season, the 49ers might not want to risk him on special teams.
The 49ers also will be short on wide receivers when the league year ends. Only Michael Crabtree and Quinton Patton are signed for next season. Wylie said he can play on the outside, in the slot and can return punts.
“I like it here,” Wylie said. “If they keep me, they’re going to get my best.”
He’s also not far from childhood buddy Miles Burris, a former Granite Bay linebacker who plays for the Raiders, and they planned to meet after Thursday’s practices.
Said Wylie: “He’s only 40 minutes away. I’m going to make the drive here really soon.”
That meant that every player on the active roster at least practiced in a limited capacity. The only player who appears iffy for Sunday is left guard Mike Iupati, who still is walking with a slight limp after injuring his MCL on Nov. 17.