You couldn’t blame San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams if he wanted to forget Sunday happened. The second-year player out of Arizona State fumbled two punt returns, resulting in 10 points for the New York Giants. The second one occurred in overtime and led to the game-winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes, sending the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI. Williams has been the subject of death threats, death stares from teammates, and hate from more than a few 49ers fans. Not only was Williams a target after the game, it appears he was one heading into the game as well.
After the game, reporters crowded around the locker of Jacquian Williams, who’d forced the second fumble, hoping for an angle: Had the Giants noticed something about Kyle Williams’s technique, some weakness in the 49ers punt-return scheme? “Nah,” Williams said. “The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game.”
Devin Thomas, the reserve wide receiver who recovered both of Kyle Williams’s fumbles, was even more explicit. “He’s had a lot of concussions,” Thomas told the Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi. “We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.’ … [Giants reserve safety Tyler] Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up.”
During the regular season Williams only returned 2 punts so to say he’s an experienced return man would be a stretch. Ted Ginn Jr. did not participate in the game due to a knee injury which forced Williams into action. Was it just Williams being nervous in a high pressure situation?
If Sash’s early hits did “daze” Williams and opposing players noticed it is there an issue of players not willing to report head injuries? Despite the seriousness of such injuries some players appear to be willing to hide them to stay on the field and help their team.
The league has taken measures in an effort to reduce blows to the head but that doesn’t account for teams “game-planning” to deliver them. Are a few of the Giants players headhunters? At first glance at the comments it might appear so. Going after someone with sore ribs is one thing. Attempting to take a player out of the game with a head shot is another.
In looking at hits that have resulted in penalties and fines for helmet-to-helmet contact this year you could make the argument that some players have no regard for their own safety, let alone their opponent. Is making a conscious effort to “rattle” or “daze” someone a strategy that’s employed if a player’s history of concussions is known? Apparently so. Does making the opposition “hear footsteps” or keep their head on a swivel help gain a competitive advantage? Maybe. Is it going away anytime soon? Probably not.