San Francisco 49ers

49ers sign punter, announce new head athletic trainer

Justin Vogel, a former Green Bay Packers punter, has signed with the 49ers.
Justin Vogel, a former Green Bay Packers punter, has signed with the 49ers. AP

The 49ers have a possible replacement for Bradley Pinion after he left in free agency last week to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

San Francisco on Tuesday announced the signing of former Green Bay Packers punter Justin Vogel, who was named a Pro Bowl alternate following his rookie season in 2017. He averaged 41.6 net yards per punt ranking seventh in the NFL. He had 19 punts downed inside the 20-yard line and just two touchbacks, which were the fewest by a Packers punter in club history with at least 70 attempts.

But Vogel was released after the Packers invested a fifth-round draft choice in J.K. Scott the following spring. Vogel was signed by the Cleveland Browns but failed to make the team during final cuts and spent the 2018 season out of the league. He played his college ball at Miami (Fla.) and went undrafted.

Vogel did not handle kickoffs with Green Bay, which was one of Pinion’s responsibilities during his four seasons with San Francisco, which eased the workload of mid-30s kickers Phil Dawson and Robbie Gould. It’s unknown if the 49ers plan on asking Gould to handle those duties after he received the franchise tag worth roughly $5 million this spring.

The 49ers could still add another punter in the draft or free agency at some point this offseason. Perhaps they target one that could also handle kickoffs allowing Gould to focus on field goals.

San Francisco announced Tuesday that restricted free agent running back Raheem Mostert would return on a three-year contract. Mostert, arguably the team’s best player on kickoff and punt coverage, rejoins a talented position group featuring Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida.

The 49ers also announced the hiring of Dustin Little as the team’s new head athletic trainer. He spent more than the past five years with the Denver Broncos where he served as an athletic assistant/physical therapist.

“We are excited to add Dustin to our health and performance team and believe he is a tremendous fit for our group,” 49ers general manager John Lynch wrote in a statement. “A wide net was cast for this search, and we simply kept coming back to him. Our due diligence and a great recommendation from the Broncos organization, which is highly regarded for the care of its players, made us extremely confident in bringing Dustin aboard.”

Little replaces Jeff Ferguson, who was fired following the 2018 season. Little will work closely with Ben Peterson, the team’s new head of player health and performance, which was a new position created this offseason after the team dealt with a slew of injuries the past two years.

Dustin Perry is the team’s new head of strength and conditioning following the firing of Ray Wright, who was with San Francisco for the past two seasons.