The 49ers on Wednesday made room on their roster for one special teams coverage specialist, Ray Ventrone, by cutting another specialist, Kassim Osgood, who just two days earlier received lofty praise from head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Kassim Osgood, again, he’s our best player on special teams, especially on the coverage units,” Harbaugh said as he went over a list of standout players from Sunday's game. “He’s doing a great job.”
Osgood, 34, did not make the 49ers' final cuts before the season began but he was brought back after Week 1 so that the team was not responsible for his full, annual salary. The same sequence occurred last season, and Osgood could be back again at some point this season.
The 49ers special teams units have been inconsistent since Harbaugh and coordinator Brad Seely arrived in 2011. They were excellent that year, but slipped the following season, which included a kickoff return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
The following season, they brought in 30-something veterans Osgood and Ventrone, who tightened up the 49ers' coverage.
Through four games, the kickoff coverage has given up 23.9 yards a return while opponents are averaging 14.8 yards per punt return, tying the 49ers for league-worst with the Dolphins in that category. That includes an 82-yard punt-return touchdown by Eagles returner Darren Sproles last week. The Chiefs' D'Anthony Thomas nearly had an identical return Sunday.
Along with with rookie L.J. McCray, Osgood had been serving as a gunner on punt-coverage. Another rookie, Jimmie Ward, handled that duty at times during the preseason.