Gearing Up For The Minute Man

Gearing Up For The Minute Man

Mat McBriar has to be prepare for one of the most electric return men in the game this weekend.

Chances are good that most Dallas-Fort Worth residents didn't see Sunday's 49ers-Seahawks game in which San Francisco wide receiver/return specialist put on a show on special teams, returning a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown and then taking a punt back 55 yards for another score … just 59 seconds later. Ginn finished the day with 176 yards on kickoff returns and 92 yards on punt returns.

To be honest, the game wasn't exactly a marquee matchup to fans living anywhere other than in areas with NFC West teams.

One person who did notice Ginn's absurd performance: Dallas punter Mat McBriar.

"He's special," McBriar said of Ginn. "Watching the tape of their game (against Seattle), he just seemed so much faster than everyone else out there."

McBriar has faced Ginn just once in his career, during Ginn's rookie year (2007) when Dallas beat the Dolphins, 37-20 in Miami. McBriar didn't remember the matchup, saying that he thought wide receiver Davone Bess returned punts that day. (Bess actually didn't join the Dolphins until the 2008 season.) McBriar can be forgiven for forgetting, as Ginn — the Dolphins' first-round draft pick that year — had a relatively pedestrian day returning punts, bringing three back for a total of 37 yards. Those aren't awful numbers, but hardly the stuff that the attention he earned Sunday.

"He's just scary-fast," McBriar said. "He's certainly going to be a challenge for us this week, that's for sure."

McBriar said, however, that he won't be taking any unusual precautions to keep the ball out of Ginn's hands when the teams meet at 3 p.m. (central time) this Sunday at Candlestick Park.

"He is definitely a focus for us, because he's such a talent back there," McBriar said of Ginn. "But we're not going to change what we do. I have to try not to outkick my coverage. I can't guarantee that won't happen, but I have to try not to outkick the coverage. We're definitely going to try to pin him up a little bit, because when he has green grass in front of him, he's extremely dangerous.

"This guy is really coming into his own as a returner now, but I don't want to be the guy to bring him even further out of his shell."

McBriar did something of a double-take when told that there was some discussion before Sunday's game against the Seahawks that Ginn, who now has six career touchdowns on punt returns and kickoff returns, might not even play because of injury.

"I didn't know he was questionable," McBriar said. "Looking at the tape, it didn't look like anything was bothering him."

McBriar stopped short of proclaiming Ginn as one of the best punt returners in the National Football League, saving that honor for Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears, DeSean Jackson of the Philadelpha Eagles and Darren Sproles of the New Orleans Saints.

"(Hester and Jackson) are in a league by themselves," McBriar said, "and (Sproles) is pretty damn good, because he's so hard to get down."

But after those three, McBriar said, Ginn is right there with the NFL's best punt returners.

"He's very dangerous, and a little scary," McBriar said. "We have to be very careful with him.

"That stadium has got a lot of wind, so it could be a difficult day to kick the ball, anyway. Then, with him being so dangerous back there, we have got to be at our best."

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