49ers first-round pick DeForest Buckner has big plans
Offensive tackle Anthony Davis, who sat out the 2015 season because of health concerns, reported for training camp with the rest of his 49ers teammates Saturday.
Davis’ addition, however, was preceded by a significant subtraction. The team placed nose tackle Ian Williams, who hurt his ankle early in the offseason, on the reserve/non-football injury list, meaning he won’t play in 2016.
Williams, who sat out much of 2013 and 2014 while recovering from similar injuries, arguably was the 49ers’ top defensive lineman last year, finishing the season with 65 tackles and a sack. The scouting service Pro Football Focus noted that Williams was particularly strong at the end of the year and ranked him as the NFL’s fourth-best interior defender over the last six games.
The 49ers originally rewarded Williams, 26, for his standout season with a five-year contract extension. It was reduced to a one-year deal following his injury, which occurred in South Florida.
“I’ve done it before, and I’ll do it again ... ” Williams tweeted about his previous medical comebacks.
With Williams on the sideline, the 49ers could tap Quinton Dial to play nose tackle, as he did in 2014. Or they could turn to a younger player such as Mike Purcell, Garrison Smith or undrafted rookie Darren Lake.
Davis, meanwhile, retired suddenly last June after dealing with an array of issues, including a concussion, the previous season. During the 2015 season, he vowed via social media that he planned to resume his career. On Monday, he applied for reinstatement from the NFL league office, which granted it Saturday.
Davis, 26, easily is the 49ers’ most gifted right tackle candidate. Questions remain, however, about his commitment and his conditioning. He missed all of Chip Kelly’s spring practices, the pace of which took some 49ers by surprise.
Trent Brown, a seventh-round draft pick in 2015, started the final two games last season and played well. However, veteran Erik Pears took most of the snaps at right tackle during recent spring practices, and Brown played with the second-string line. Draft picks John Theus and Fahn Cooper are other options at the position. Colin Kelly, who played in the Canadian Football League last year, also is in the mix.
Davis has been prolific on social media since his retirement, using it to criticize both teammates – including de facto offensive-line captain Joe Staley – and general manager Trent Baalke.
“I do not want to work with a front office or anyone else who seemingly doesn’t want to win as bad as I do,” Davis wrote in April. “Would you happily rent your body out to people that … constantly try to manipulate you? I hope you’d stand up for yourself.”
Baalke has avoided questions about Davis all offseason by noting he is not on the roster. Staley was not one of the players who spoke to reporters Saturday. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman and safety Antoine Bethea, two of the 49ers’ defensive veteran leaders, said they didn’t think Davis would encounter any problems from his teammates.
“It’s not an easy game,” Bowman said. “So when you make a decision to come back, it shows that you still love the game.”
Said Bethea: “We have a solid locker room. The O-line room – we have leaders in every room. ... When he comes back, I think everything’s going to be fine.”