SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Kyle Williams walked out of San Francisco 49ers headquarters Tuesday ready to talk about — and move past — the most miserable moment of his career.
Sporting a Chicago Bulls cap, a T-shirt and a new look on life, Williams spoke for the first time this spring since his two fumbles in the NFC championship game ended San Francisco’s season. For more than six minutes, Williams stayed serious and intense, making it clear he’s unfazed by all the criticism.
The speedy wide receiver said he’s motivated by all he has endured, including a barrage of hateful, hurtful — even threatening — comments via social media after his overtime fumble on a punt return set up Lawrence Tynes’ winning field goal in San Francisco’s 20-17 home loss to the New York Giants on Jan. 22.
Williams returned to work a week after and hasn’t stopped since.
“It’s not like you want to forget about something like that,” Williams said. “You want to build off of that. Learn from it, take it as a mistake and build off it. It was a tough time, obviously, for me and the whole team. But the way that these guys had my back, the way that they continue to have my back, that coupled with the work ethic has been good therapy for me.”
Williams was made an instant villain by some. He insists part of his job is to face the criticism and not hide when times get tough, so he has no qualms talking about the worst time of his career.
If anything, he seems to be the only one not making a big deal about what happened.
Williams credits his teammates — not a single one blamed him for the loss — following the game, starting when All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis waited at his locker to make sure “I was good.”
Dashon Goldson, Michael Crabtree and Ted Ginn Jr. — whom Williams filled in for that game — were among the scores of teammates who left encouraging messages on his phone.
“It’s just one of those things where you can tell the kind of guys that we have in this locker room because they didn’t turn their back on me,” Williams said. “And they could have, they really could have, and they didn’t. They came to my side and they were there for me.”
That’s only the beginning of Williams’ wild offseason.
In April, the wide receiver’s name emerged as a main target in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program. A recording came out of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instructing players in January to “put a lick” on Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion.
The NFC West champion 49ers, coming off a 13-3 regular season and making the playoffs for the first time since 2002, beat Drew Brees and the favored Saints 36-32 in a thrilling division round game.
“I didn’t really have a reaction to it,” said Williams, who had 20 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns last season. ‘I’m really not going to speak about anything like that because there’s so much speculation of what could’ve been said and all that. I’m not even going to touch base on that.”
Only a limited number of 49ers players spoke Tuesday and coach Jim Harbaugh wasn’t made available after the organized team activity.
As he has done all offseason, Williams refused to wait to take another step forward. He worked out some in Arizona, where he went to high school after his family moved from Chicago, including some workouts with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the Phoenix area.
Williams said he hasn’t changed his routine, “but the volume has definitely been turned up and it’s been very rigorous. I’m pushing myself to get an edge — that’s what it takes.” He also said he wouldn’t mind filling in for Ginn on punt returns and is ready to earn a spot anywhere he can in a crowded receiving group that now includes Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
“I feel like I’m ready to take on 18 games right now,” Williams said. “I’m ready to go.”
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)