SANTA CLARA – Kyle Williams fully realizes he will be sliding down the depth chart when Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree return to the playing field.
But he said he is fine with that. The upside for the 49ers’ last-ranked passing attack is two proven NFL pass-catchers should give the offense a boost in the second half of the season as the 49ers jockey for position heading into the playoffs.
“That makes us very, very dangerous – dynamic,” Williams said. “More weapons.”
Williams sustained a season-ending ACL tear last November. A month later, Manningham went down with a knee injury. Five months later, Crabtree underwent surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
Williams was cleared to return to action at the start of training camp and has served as the No. 2 receiver most of the season. Manningham was activated to the 53-man roster this week and expects to “make plays” on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Crabtree began practicing this week and is working his way back into football readiness.
“These guys are my older brothers,” Williams said. “They showed me the way before they went down. I’ve been in their shoes, coming back from injuries. We’re excited to get them back. I’m excited to get them back.
“I know what that means for me, but I’m also excited to get them back because I love those guys. They are my boys. It makes us a better team.”
Williams has caught just 11 passes for 108 yards and no touchdowns in eight games. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams ranks 87th of 88 wide receivers in the NFL with 0.61 yards per route run. Teammate Anquan Boldin is sixth in the league at 2.52 yards.
But Williams said his stats column should not be interpreted as an inability to get open.
“When I was on the field, I was able to get open,” he said. “The ball didn’t always come my way, but we got great weapons on offense. The ball is going to go wherever the ball has to go in certain situations. And those guys continue to make plays, so you got to get in where you fit in when it comes to a team like this with so many weapons.”
Williams added, “People are always going to look at the stats. But the good thing about it is I’m not worried about people. I could care less what people write, what people say. I know how the guys in this locker room feel about me and what I was able to do on that field and doing my part and getting open, and (I have) no control where the ball goes after that.
“Again, the ball is going to some great players: Anquan, Vernon (Davis), Frank (Gore), you can go down the line. Everybody on the team is a really viable option. So you can’t be disappointed with it, especially when you’re winning games. That’s what you’re here to do.”
Williams was the 49ers’ primary return man in the first half of the season, but it’s uncertain if he will remain in that role for Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
Williams fumbled the opening kickoff against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London. He later muffed a punt out of bounds. Anthony Dixon replaced Williams on a second-half kickoff return.
“We got the win,” Williams said of the 42-10 victory. “I don’t care what you guys write. I don’t care what anybody else says, I always feel good about where I’m at as a player. So whatever you guys want to write is whatever you guys want to write. I feel good, regardless. I know what I can do.”
Coach Jim Harbaugh expressed a desire last week to get LaMichael James more involved on offense and special teams. James remained after practice Wednesday to get extra work fielding punts.
When asked if Williams was still his return man, Harbaugh answered, “All those options are open, and I’m not going to divulge that information.”
Said Williams, “I don’t make any decisions around here. I just come to work. I work my (butt) off and go home. I don’t make any of those calls. You’ll have to ask coach that. That’s his decision. I don’t know where he’s at with it.”
Williams ranks 23rd in the NFL with a 5.1 yards average on punt returns. He has called a league-high 20 fair catches. He is averaging 19.1 yards on seven kickoff returns.