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  • PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

    Kyle Williams lies on the turf after his second botched punt return led to the New York Giants' overtime victory.

  • Kyle Williams

49ers' Williams handles misfortune

Published: Wednesday, May. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Thursday, May. 24, 2012 - 9:40 am

SANTA CLARA – In the days after the NFC Championship Game, Kyle Williams was a wanted man.

Television shows from "Good Morning America" to Jim Rome and radio stations from midtown Manhattan to downtown San Francisco were clamoring to get the 49ers wide receiver on air to ask one burning question: How was he dealing with the two botched punt returns that cost his team a trip to the Super Bowl?

As it turns out, Williams dealt with his mistakes by getting back to work.

Williams turned down nearly every media request – his only appearance was on "The Dan Patrick Show" two days after the game – and headed to Arizona, where he played collegiately and trains in the offseason. He called his workouts "good therapy."

"I haven't really stopped," Williams said Tuesday, his first public comments since January. "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."

Fans haven't forgotten Williams' fumbles, the second of which set up the Giants' winning field goal in overtime. Neither has Williams.

"It's not like you want to forget about something like that," he said. "You want to build off of that, learn from it, take it as a mistake and build off it, you know? It was a tough time, obviously, for me and for the whole team."

But he's determined not to let the miscues define his career. And while he's received an avalanche of criticism – including death threats – he's also received support from fans, neighbors and a few former NFL players.

Kurt Warner and Deion Sanders were among those who called Williams in the aftermath of the 49ers' defeat.

So did former running back Earnest Byner, whose goal-line fumble late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game in January 1988 cost the Browns a chance at their first trip to the Super Bowl.

The play is so infamous in Cleveland that it's known simply as "The Fumble."

The message from Byner was that as bad as the error stings now, it's possible to change the script. Four years later, for example, Byner won a Super Bowl with the Redskins.

Williams said he's also been fueled by his teammates, many of whom sought him out after the championship game.

Linebacker Patrick Willis was waiting for Williams at his locker after the game. Safety Dashon Goldson was the first person to call him on his cellphone.

Fellow receivers Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. also told him they were behind him, Williams said.

"It's just one of those things that you can tell the type of guys you have in this locker room because they didn't turn their backs on me," he said. "And they could have. They really could have. They came to my back, and they were there for me."

The 49ers who weren't in the locker room that day are the ones Williams has to worry about this offseason.

The lack of production from San Francisco's wideouts in the championship game – Williams, for example, started the game but was held without a catch – prompted the team to bulk up its wideout corps in March and April.

The 49ers added two big-name free agents in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham, and they used their first-round draft pick on wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.

After keeping only five wideouts on the 53-man roster last season, the 49ers now have their deepest group in years.

Williams said he welcomes the competition and is willing to play any position his coaches ask – even punt returner.

"Wherever they put me, I feel comfortable with myself and my abilities," he said.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Matthew Barrows



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