SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers are expected to get a big boost for their playoff opener with the return of injured star left tackle Trent Williams.
Williams returned to practice Thursday after missing the season finale with an elbow injury and is on target to play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
“The elbow is doing good,” Williams said. “It’s made a lot of improvement over the last week or so. I practiced today. It felt pretty good.”
Williams was officially limited and wore tape on the elbow instead of a brace but his return this week would be key as the Niners must contend with Dallas’ star edge rushers DeMarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Micah Parsons.
Williams got hurt on the sixth play of a Week 17 win over Houston but remained in the game until the Niners had a big lead late in the game.
He didn’t practice at all last week but held out hope until Sunday that he could play against the Rams. He wasn’t able to but the 49ers still managed to win 27-24 in overtime to make the playoffs.
“I knew going last week was a bit of a shot in the dark,” Williams said. “Obviously, with the season being where it was, I couldn’t give up on myself early in the week so I just thought I’d give it to the very last second to see if I could make any breakthroughs or get any better to see if I could push through it. I did that. It didn’t work but we kind of knew that though. We knew that one week of rest was probably not enough. I just prayed we could get a second week in and we were able to.”
The win last week with Colton McKivitz at tackle allowed Williams to make the playoffs for just the third time since entering the NFL as the fourth overall pick in 2010 with Washington. He lost his only two appearances in the 2012 and ’15 seasons but now gets another shot.
Williams has been one of the NFL’s best left tackles this season, fueling San Francisco’s running game and allowing just one sack all year, according to Pro Football Focus.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever played with, so it’s very helpful,” tight end George Kittle said about Williams’ likely return this week.
“Huge Trent Williams fan, love playing with him, love blocking with him. He makes my life a lot easier. He makes everybody’s life a lot easier. You can ask him to block two guys and he’ll do it with ease. Trent, like a little bit hurt is still better than I think almost everybody in the NFL regardless of position. So, having him back has a huge impact for us.”
NOTES: QB Jimmy Garoppolo was a full participant in practice for the first time since injuring his right thumb on Dec. 23. Garoppolo missed one game and was limited all last week before returning to play against the Rams. … LB Azeez Al-Shaair (knee), LB Marcell Harris (Achilles), S Talanoa Hufanga (knee), RB Elijah Mitchell (knee), S Jaquiski Tartt (groin) and P Mitch Wishnowsky (concussion) were all limited.