Kyle Williams has been dubbed one of the five No. 1 receivers on the 49ers, although he still seems to be fighting to hold onto his roster spot.
The aggressive moves the Niners made at receiver this offseason have something to do with that, but you can’t discount the lingering memory of Williams’ two fumbles in the NFC Championship Game. Not so much the 49ers’ response to the miscues, because they’ve been uniformly supportive of him since the loss to the Giants, as any doubt that might have creeped into Williams’ mind as a result of the way things went down in January.
Williams has heard from a couple of other famous fumblers who don’t want to see that happen to him. Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Earnest Byner and Roger Craig both reached out to Williams in the wake of his rough day. Byner’s fumble near the end zone against Denver in the 1987 AFC Championship Game was so big that it is referred to as The Fumble and Craig’s fumble late in the 1990 NFC Championship Game set up the Giants’ winning field goal.
Both men told Williams that he needed to forgive himself and that couldn’t let the fumbles define his entire career. Williams said he took the encouraging words of both men to heart.
“His main message was, ‘Don’t let this hang around,’” Williams said of Byner’s message. “Those words, coming from him, they really meant something. They definitely hit home. He’s been there. He’s dealt with the criticism. He was telling me that he let it hang around too long. It was definitely something that hit somewhere close. I’m taking those words and I’m moving on.”
Branch says that Williams’ work in training camp has been very good and speculates that he may have already nailed down a roster spot. If so, he’ll get a chance to show how much he’s moved on when the season gets underway.