SANTA CLARA, Calif .– Barring a setback in the next few days, the San Francisco 49ers are set to welcome one of their most important and important players again in time for Sunday’s NFC showdown against the Dallas Cowboys.
Left tackle Trent Williams, who has been recovering from a sprained right elbow in the past two weeks, returned to training on Thursday. While he was officially listed as a limited participant, all indications are that he is ready to play in Dallas.
“The elbow is doing well,” said Williams. “It has improved a lot in the last week. I trained today. I felt pretty good.”
Williams did not train on Wednesday, but coach Kyle Shanahan had remained optimistic this week that the star’s left tackle would be able to return to a point where he could play against the Cowboys. Williams performed Thursday’s workout with special elbow band work, something he said he prefers to a bulkier brace.
Williams ‘return on Thursday bodes particularly well as it’s the 49ers’ most intense training day. It’s also a long way from last week, when Williams said he knew from the start that he was unlikely to play against the Los Angeles Rams, but kept his hopes up until the hours leading up to the game.
“I knew leaving last week was a bit of a blow in the dark,” said Williams. “Obviously with the season being where it was, I couldn’t give up on my own at the start of the week, so I just figured I would give it up at the very last second to see if I could make any breakthroughs or get better to see if I could get through it. I did and it didn’t work but we kinda knew it. We knew a week off probably wasn’t enough and I just prayed that we could have a second week and we were able to. “
Indeed, San Francisco’s 27-24 win over the Rams secured them a playoff berth and gave Williams extra time to heal.
Williams first suffered an elbow injury in game six of a Jan. 2 win over the Houston Texans. He played through the injury that day until the Niners retired late but knew something was wrong.
“I really didn’t think it was the right time for me to miss a moment, so I just resisted and paid the price later,” said Williams.
Colton McKivitz replaced Williams against the Rams, but is expected to return to his replacement role this week against the Cowboys. Williams’ return is particularly important to the Niners as Dallas trio Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Micah Parsons have said he “moves this defense forward.”
Williams finished the regular season with a 92.3% win rate, which was ninth in the NFL, and did not allow a sack, according to ESPN blocking data tracking.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever played with so it’s very helpful,” tight end George Kittle said of Williams’ imminent return. “Huge Trent Williams fan, I love playing with him, I love blocking with him, it makes my life a lot easier. He makes everyone’s life a lot easier… Trent, like a little hurt, c ‘He’s always better than I think almost everyone in the NFL, regardless of position. So his return has a huge impact on us and will allow us to do a lot more in the running and passing game. “