Skuta looks to help 49ers on special teams, defense ... and offense

Dan Skuta eager to contribute immediately

Skuta looks to help 49ers on special teams, defense ... and offense
March 15, 2013, 8:30 am
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Dan Skuta played 15 snaps on offense for the Bengals in 2010. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Dan Skuta, who signed a two-year contract with the 49ers late Thursday, is listed as an inside linebacker.

With All-Pro inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman on long-term contracts with the 49ers, the team hopes Skuta remains on the sideline when the defense is on the field.

But Skuta, who played his first four NFL seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, still can big a big contributor as one of the 49ers' core special-teams players. And Skuta also figures to get a chance to contribute as a short-yardage blocker at fullback on offense.

He played 15 snaps on offense for the Bengals in 2010 in such a role. Skuta played running back in high school, and also saw some action there while at NCAA Division II Grand Valley State.

When asked if he might play some offense, Skuta had a long pause before answering.

"That's a conversation they've had," Skuta said. "I'm not really sure. I'm going to come in and if that's something they have for me to do, I'll be happy to do it."

Since Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman arrived on the scene in 2011, the 49ers have used a number of defensive players on offense, including Isaac Sopoaga, Will Tukuafu, Justin Smith and Demarcus Dobbs.

Skuta's main responsibility will be to help shore up the 49ers' coverage units. The 49ers ranked 31st in the NFL last season, allowing a 26.9-yard average on kickoff returns. The opposition returned six kickoffs 40 yards or more.

The biggest -- and most costly -- meltdown on special teams occurred in Super Bowl XLVII when Jacoby Jones had a 108-yard kickoff return to open the second half in the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory.

Skuta spent four or five hours at the 49ers' Santa Clara complex on Thursday, during which time he got the impression the 49ers are a "top notch" program.

"I just want to just contribute," he said. "We saw it the same way, contributing any way possible, running down the field on special teams, backup linebacker, (and) a number of different things they talked about doing with me."

Skuta said he is not bothered that there will be no opportunity to start, as long as Willis and Bowman remain healthy. He said he is eager to learn behind two of the best inside linebackers in the league.

He said he expects to move to the Bay Area as quickly as possible to begin working out at the team's facility. He will take part in the 49ers' offseason program.

"Seeing them on TV and word around the league is that the guys here are strong, always in shape and ready to go," Skuta said. "That speaks a lot of training staff and guys in the weight room. The guys are all hard workers."

Skuta is likely to take the spot of Larry Grant and/or Tavares Gooden, both of whom play inside linebacker and play special teams. Grant and Gooden are both unrestricted free agents.