When the San Francisco 49ers signed Randy Moss and Mario Manningham in the offseason, retained Ted Ginn Jr. and drafted A.J. Jenkins with their No. 1 pick in the draft, it appeared that Kyle Williams’ days as a 49er would be numbered.
The man considered the goat of the Niners’ NFC Championship Game loss to the Giants seemed as if he’d be the odd man out in a roulette game at wide receiver.
But reports of his demise may have been premature.
It appears Williams, entering his third season after being a sixth-round pick of the 49ers in 2010 out of Arizona State, isn’t just going to roll over and say goodbye.
Shortly after Williams misplayed a couple of punts in the NFC Championship Game that helped the Giants to an overtime win and a berth in the Super Bowl, Williams started working toward 2012.
He held his head high, answered all questions, took responsibility and relished the fact that his teammates and coaches supported him. He had stepped in for Ginn to handle the punt return duties in the game and had obviously come up short. But since that time, he’s thrown himself into an intense workout program and came to team workouts and mini camp this spring ready to show he’s eager to compete for his spot on the team.
“I haven’t really stopped,” Williams told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee before organized team activities. “Ever since a week after that last game, I’ve been going. There was no break and I’ve been going full-throttle since then. I feel great.”
Williams knows it will be a numbers game. Moss, Manningham, Ginn, Jenkins and Michael Crabtree give the team five almost-certain roster spots, and undrafted rookies such as Chris Owusu of Stanford and Nathan Palmer of Northern Illinois lead the rest of the cast competing for a job.
Williams can’t control the rest of the group, but he does have control over his effort.
“I’ve just been going hard, and I’m ready to go now,” he told Barrows.
Williams – who had 20 catches last season for 241 yards and three TDs in the regular season -- says he’s been pushing himself in workouts “to get an edge” because “that’s what it takes.”
Then, in the recently concluded camp workouts, Williams put on an impressive performance as both a receiver and punt returner.
After one practice, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Eric Branch noted that Williams was the sharpest and perhaps best-conditioned receiver in the group.
Wrote Branch: “Williams sure looks like the smoothest and most explosive wide receiver on the roster during these non-padded practices. At one point … he abused cornerback Perrish Cox on a slant route – Cox was left flat-footed by a juke to the right and Williams zipped by across the middle. During the end-of-practice sprints across the width of the field and back, Williams was several yards ahead of his nearest pursuer.”
Head coach Jim Harbaugh, too, took notice.
“Kyle Williams continues to elevate his play,” Harbaugh told reporters. “Very steady and then a pretty big inflection point I would say in this mini camp in particular.”
Still, there is an entire training camp to survive and preseason schedule to play. No matter how well Williams plays, he may still be without a job at the end of summer simply because of the math. Only so many receivers will fit on a roster.
But it certainly appears Williams is going to give it his best shot.