"Getting to the point where we're practicing with about 69 guys, 69 healthy guys to my count today…Three of those are kickers and one is a long snapper, so, 65 bodies or so." Head Coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters after practice. He then elaborated by saying, "We need guys, and it's not just the chance to play running back, all that the football game is going to entail…special teams…it's a great chance for another youngster to compete."
The announcement of the signing comes hours after the Niners gave word that they had placed tailback Kendall Hunter on waivers but gave him a "injured" designation. Hunter tore his ACL during the second day of practice, ending his season before it began. Hunter is expected to clear waivers on Tuesday and spend the rest of the season on injured reserve.
It would not be completely unheard of if a team reaches out to Hunter given that the New England Patriots claimed injured RB Tyler Gaffney from the Carolina Panthers in July and the Seattle Seahawks lost tackle Michael Bowie to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. However, with Hunter in the final year of his rookie contract, he will be a free agent at seasons end. The only advantage in a team claiming Hunter would be having exclusive negotiating rights to begin the offseason. If for some reason a team feels that it is worth the risk, the Niners would be off the hook for the $650,000 Hunter is owed this year and the team claiming him would take on the salary.
Winston, 25, began his collegiate career at Michigan State in 2008. He spent his freshman season primarily as a kick returner, receiving only three carries for the year. During his sophomore year, Winston carried the ball 60 times for 204 yards and two touchdowns through six games before tearing the ACL in his right knee. Winston's sophomore year proved to be his last with the Spartans, according to NBC Sports and public records, the Michigan native was involved in a couple altercations that led to his dismissal from the team and reportedly a four month stint in prison in 2009 and six month stint in 2010.
By all accounts, the 6'5" 220 pounder has stayed out of trouble since the incidents and resumed his college career by playing with Northwood University, a Division II school in Michigan. Winston told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press back in May, "A mistake doesn't dictate who I am." Winston continued by describing his growth over the years by saying, "I was young around the time. I was 18, 19, I'm a grown man now. I'm completely past that. I paid my debt."
Last season, Winston rushed the ball 175 times for 717 yards and nine touchdowns for the Timberwolves. The Detroit Free press also noted that the 49ers had scouted Winston after his pro day.
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