Baker dodges a Jarrett
Niners sticking with Jason Baker at punter for now
Niners sticking with Jason Baker at punter for now

Posted Nov 12, 2002

Punter Jason Baker appeared to be on the chopping block with the 49ers this week, his position on the team shaky at best. But that all changed Tuesday when the Niners waived rookie punter Craig Jarrett, whom they signed last week to their practice squad to provide some competition for - and put pressure on - Baker.

That didn’t necessarily work last Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs as Baker again struggled, averaging just 33.7 yards on his three punts. That left the Niners ranked 29th in the NFL in gross punt average, and left Baker as the NFC’s lowest-ranked punter with an average of 39.6 yards per kick. Only one NFL punter has a lower average.

The Niners aren’t exactly trying to kid anybody that they’re satisfied with that kind of production from their second-year punter, who hasn’t improved over last year, when he ranked 13th in the NFC with a 40.8 average.

"It’s no secret where we rank in terms of punting in the league," Niners general manager Terry Donahue said. "But Jason is a young punter, and I think all of us would agree that it takes time to play in this league and to get comfortable. Luckily, the last few weeks, we haven’t been tested in the punting game because our team has been generating enough offensive production on long drives and things and we haven’t punted very often."

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Baker. But the team likes his athleticism and also the way he works as a holder for kicker Jose Cortez. Jarrett, who had been in for a tryout with the team earlier this year, got a long look both as a punter and holder last week, but the team opted to stay with Baker and waived Jarrett when it needed to clear a spot on its practice squad roster.

That roster spot will go to receiver James Jordan if he clears waivers Tuesday. Jordan was waived Tuesday to make room on the 53-man roster for rookie defensive tackle Josh Shaw.

"We brought in another punter on the practice squad to take a look at him and see how he compares with Jason and also to give him some time holding with our kicker," Donahue said. "But Jason has done a great job holding the ball with Jose Cortez. We just need to continue to monitor the situation and have some faith that Jason’s going to perform well, and to have some answers if he doesn’t."

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