SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Trent Williams has been envisioning this moment ever since he got freed from Washington and given a new football life in San Francisco.
Disgruntled with his original team, the seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle now gets a chance to get back on the field for the first time since the 2018 season when the 49ers host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in the season opener.
“It’s probably the first thing on my mind when I get up and the last thing on my mind when I go to sleep,” Williams said of the excitement for his first game back from his one-year hiatus.
“There’s a lot of things to think about when it comes to me thinking about this opener. It’s on my mind constantly. I’m excited that I’m back in this position where I can just think about football. I’m blessed to be in this position. I just plan on taking advantage of it.”
Williams’ long absence was caused by a frustrating finish to his time in Washington. He sat out the entire 2019 season because of a dispute with the front office.
Last November, Williams revealed he had cancer and said that situation led him to distrust Washington’s medical staff and organization as a whole. He said at the time “there’s no trust there” with President Bruce Allen, who was fired after a 3-13 season.
The medical staff also was overhauled, and new coach Ron Rivera took control of football operations. But Williams still wanted out and got his wish granted when he was finally traded during the draft to San Francisco.
He was able to reunite with coach Kyle Shanahan, who was offensive coordinator for Williams’ first four seasons in Washington.
He also provided the Niners with the ideal replacement for six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley, who informed the team he planned to retire just days before the deal for Williams was struck.
Williams won’t exactly get to ease into action with his first game in more than 20 months coming against one of the game’s top pass rushers. Arizona’s Chandler Jones leads the NFL with 96 sacks since he made his NFL debut in 2012 and will provide a tough early test for Williams.
The last time those two faced each other came in the 2018 season opener when Williams allowed only one quarterback pressure to Jones, according to Pro Football Focus.
Williams said he popped on film of some of his past meetings with Jones as soon as the schedule was released in May.
“Me and him have had some epic battles and we went back and forth a few times,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of tape for me to study on me and him and our matchups. I didn’t waste any time. I just started to go over and look at it again. It’s frustrating because he’s a rusher with it all. So no matter how much you study, there’s still that X-factor that he can get you on. That’s what makes him so good.”
But Williams had some good preparation for that kind of challenge in training camp, where he went up against San Francisco’s talented edge rushers like 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Arik Armstead.
He showed few signs of rust, giving confidence to his teammates that he can regain his Pro Bowl form quickly.
“He came in here and he’s putting on a show, man,” running back Raheem Mostert said. “The way he moves and stuff like that, you don’t see that. You can’t teach that with any other O-linemen. He’s definitely a difference maker and a guy that we definitely rely on. … He’s been injured and he’s been out for some time and hasn’t necessarily hit his stride. It feels like this year he feels like he’s definitely gonna hit that. We all see it is definitely something to witness.”
NOTES: WR Deebo Samuel (foot) and CB Jason Verrett won’t play this week. … WR Brandon Aiyuk (hamstring) and C Ben Garland are questionable. … The Niners were able to practice despite the heavy smoke in the area from wildfires but the Air Quality Index remained below the 200 threshold. RB Tevin Coleman was held out of practice because of a preexisting condition because he carries the sickle cell trait.
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