Kassim Osgood can be a receiver when needed, but it's as a special teams player that he's made the biggest impact in the NFL. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
By position, Kassim Osgood is listed as a wide receiver.
But it’s the possible Osgood may not catch a single pass with the 49ers in 2013, yet still make an impact.
On Tuesday, the 49ers signed Osgood -- who has played 10 seasons in the NFL – to a one-year deal largely because of his prowess as a special teams player. As a gunner on punt teams and on kickoff squads, Osgood has made a name for himself as one of the best punt- and kick-coverage players in the league. He has 122 special-teams tackles and is a three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro pick as a special-teams player.
Osgood came into the league in 2003 with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent from San Diego State and played six seasons in San Diego before playing two in Jacksonville and last season in Detroit.
Through 10 seasons he has just 44 catches for 749 yards and five touchdowns – with 28 of those receptions coming in his first two seasons with the Chargers.
But the 6-foot-5, 220-pounder from Salinas has been an impact player on coverage teams. Almost from the start of his career with the Chargers, he discovered he could make plays, and he’s embraced the role.
“I’m trying to get on the field any way I can,” Osgood said of his special-teams play in an interview with the Monterey Herald in 2009. “I want to come to a team and do whatever I can to create problems for the other team, however I can – right now that’s go at ‘em running before they can set up and stick me.”
He says it’s a combination of things that makes him good at what he does.
“Speed, strength, knowing my responsibilities,” he said. “You’ve got to know your responsibilities. But in the end it’s all effort. You just gotta be crazy. Think inertia. What did Newton say? Things in motion stay in motion.”
The 49ers this offseason have tried to upgrade their special teams, including kick- and punt-coverage units. By signing specialists such as Osgood and former Browns and Patriots safety Raymond Ventrone, they’ve added players who’ve proven they can make big hits and sure tackles. Ventrone has made 39 special-teams tackles in six NFL seasons.
Though Osgood is 33, 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh believes he can make a significant impact.
“I like the way he runs down and covers kicks,” Harbaugh told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “But there’s a lot to his game. Very good tackler. Even in 10 years he’s been in the league, you watch him, he’s first or second every time running down on kickoffs.”
Harbaugh says Osgood is a strong blocker as a wide receiver and is physical and strong.
With the additions of Osgood, Ventrone and additional free agents and rookies, Harbaugh says his punt and kickoff units “have the chance to be elite.”
Osgood was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2006, 2007 and 2009 and was All-Pro in 2007 and 2009.
Last season, he was selected by his Lions teammates as MVP of special teams.