49ers notes: Williams back in punt return role

Published: Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 - 10:05 am

DENVER – Ted Ginn, whose absence at the end of the 2011 season had major ramifications for the 49ers, left Sunday's game and did not return. X-rays taken on his right ankle were negative, coach Jim Harbaugh said.

That put Kyle Williams under the spotlight against the Broncos and perhaps for the season opener Sept. 9 against Green Bay. Williams cleanly fielded three punts for 30 yards after Ginn left the game in the third quarter. In addition, Williams fair-caught another attempt and forced a fumble while playing gunner on punt coverage at the end of the game.

Both of Williams' miscues as a punt returner in January's NFC Championship Game led to scores by the New York Giants, including the game-winning field goal in overtime.

Since then, Williams has been on a mission of absolution. He took only a week off during the offseason and returned to the 49ers 12 pounds bulkier than he was at the end of last season.

His mindset if he returns punts at Lambeau Field: "Let's go."

"My confidence level is always at 100 percent," he said. "I don't feel uncomfortable at all back there."

Williams also had the longest reception of the preseason for the 49ers, 46 yards, after catching an out route from quarterback Colin Kaepernick near the sideline.

The Broncos defensive back broke on the ball, missed it, and Williams gained most of the yards on the run.

He said he probably should have stayed along the sideline instead of breaking the run to the middle of the field.

"I definitely have to score on that play," he said.

Ginn, meanwhile, hobbled off the field after gaining nine yards on an end-around in the third quarter.

He limped into the X-ray room and did not return to the sideline. Ginn suffered a knee injury in the divisional playoffs against the New Orleans Saints, causing him to miss the following week against the Giants. Ginn still was rehabilitating that injury during spring practices.

Super-sized tight end – In addition to his regular role as a backup guard, Leonard Davis played throughout the contest as an extra tight end. The 355-pound veteran said he hadn't played the position since high school.

The 49ers often used an offensive lineman as a tight end in their "heavy jumbo" packages last season, with Alex Boone and Chilo Rachal typically filling that role. Davis could have that job this year.

"I thought there was a lot of improvement from Leonard today … really coming off the ball," Harbaugh said. "He had some physical plays. I thought he got rhythm. He was just in sync today. Just better."

Davis didn't play last year as a member of the Detroit Lions. Sunday signaled that even if he's not a starter, he will have a role for the 49ers on game days.

"If they feel I'm not going to be a starter, I'm not going to whine or cry about it," Davis said. "That's what it is."

Et cetera – Quarterback Alex Smith flubbed a snap in the first quarter, and the ball was recovered by the Broncos. It was Smith's first turnover since he threw an interception Nov. 24 against the Baltimore Ravens.

• Wide receiver Mario Manningham is mourning the recent passing of his grandfather and did not make the trip to Denver.

• Outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who is fighting for a roster spot, left the game after taking a knee to the side of the helmet. Newcomers Kenny Rowe and Ikaika Alama-Francis filled in.

• Cornerback Chris Culliver (knee) did not make the trip to Denver. Tramaine Brock entered the game as the No. 3 cornerback. Another cornerback, Perrish Cox, intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, Cox's second of the preseason.

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