Sutherland's back in 49ers' plans
January 03, 2003
SANTA CLARA - The 49ers re-signed Vinny Sutherland on Thursday, some four months after he lost his job as the return specialist to Jimmy Williams and subsequently was released Aug. 27.
"I'm off the street and have a shot at doing something in the playoffs with the 49ers," Sutherland said. "I'm really happy to be on board at this point."
Coach Steve Mariucci said Sutherland likely will return kickoffs in Sunday's first-round playoff game against the New York Giants. Mariucci said Sutherland will back up punt returner Cedrick Wilson, who took over return duties when Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury Dec. 8.
Sutherland averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return and 7.6 yards per punt return last year for the 49ers in his rookie season. Mariucci said Thursday's move was prompted by the questionable status of cornerback Jason Webster, who had been the backup punt returner and has missed practice this week with a sprained left ankle.
Sutherland said he's lost about 10 pounds since leaving the 49ers, and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said Sutherland looks "a little quicker, a littler faster."
Sutherland was with the Chicago Bears for a month this season but played in only one game. His previous tenure with the 49ers was marred by two drunken-driving arrests. He's pleaded no contest to charges stemming from a May 18 drunken-driving accident in Saratoga, and sentencing has been delayed until the end of January.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia said certain aspects of his job are wearing on him.
"Finishing 10-6 and being a playoff team just isn't good enough around here, and that starts to wear on you a little," Garcia said. "You're out there trying to do your job, helping a team reach a playoff position, yet it's not good enough. I mean, what do we have to do to satisfy everybody? Go out and win a playoff game is a step in the right direction."
Garcia also expressed frustration over the demands on his time.
"You're always being pulled in one direction or another. As much as this is what I want, and as much as this is something I've always dreamed about, there's also a cost. ... It's hard to lift that weight from your shoulders. ... Right now, I just value the time I have to spend at home and just close the doors. That's almost the most valuable thing I have at this point."
Linebacker Jamie Winborn's aspirations of returning from a Sept. 22 knee injury officially were dashed when the 49ers placed him on injured reserve Thursday. Winborn underwent surgery on his left knee for the first time last month, and Mariucci said team doctors decided it would be pushing Winborn too much to get him back for the playoffs.
Webster, who sprained his left ankle in the third quarter of Monday night's loss at St. Louis, said he probably won't practice this week and will be a game-time decision. ... Wide receiver Terrell Owens practiced for the second straight day, the first time he's done that in nearly two months because of groin and heel injuries. ... Team owner representative John York watched practice and escorted Mariucci off the field afterward.
-- Cam Inman
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