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SANTA CLARA, California – Aside from a setback in the next few days, the San Francisco 49ers are expected to welcome one of their biggest and most important players back in time for Sunday’s NFC wildcard showdown against the Dallas Cowboys.
Left tackle Trent Williams, who has been recovering from a sprained right elbow for the past few weeks, returned to training on Thursday. A time when he was officially listed as a restricted participant, all indications are that he is ready to play in Dallas.
“The elbow is fine,” Williams said. “It’s made a lot of improvements over the last week or so. I practiced today. I felt pretty good.”
Williams did not coach on Wednesday, but coach Kyle Shanahan had this week remained optimistic that the left-back tackle would be able to get back to a point he could play against the Cowboys. Williams underwent Thursday’s training with a special tape job on his elbow, something he said he prefers to a larger hanger.
That Williams returned on Thursday weekends, especially good as it’s the 49ers’ most strenuous training day. It’s also far from last week, when Williams said he always knew it was unlikely he would play against the Los Angeles Rams, but kept hope out all the way up to the hours before the game.
“I knew going last week was a bit of a shot in the dark,” Williams said. “Of course with the season where it was, I could not give up on myself early in the week, so I just thought I would give it to the last second to see if I could make some breakthroughs or get better at watching. if I could get through it. I did and it did not work, but we knew it anyway. We knew that a week’s rest was probably not enough and I just asked that we could get another week in. , and we were able to. “
San Francisco’s 27-24 win over the Rams secured them a playoff spot and bought Williams more time to heal.
Williams originally injured his elbow in the sixth game of a Jan. 2 win over the Houston Texans. He played through the injury that day until the Niners withdrew late, but knew something was wrong.
“I certainly did not think it was a good time for me to miss any time, so I just got through it and I paid the price later,” Williams said.
Colton McKivitz replaced Williams against the Rams, but is likely to return for a backup role this week against the Cowboys. Getting Williams back is especially important for the Niners given Dallas’ pass-rushing trio of Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory and Micah Parsons, a group Williams said “makes that defense go.”
Williams ended the regular season with a pass rushing victory rate of 92.3%, which was ninth in the NFL, and did not allow a firing, according to ESPN’s tracking of blocking data.
“He’s the best football player I’ve ever played with, so that’s very helpful,” tight-end George Kittle said of Williams’ impending return. “Giant Trent Williams fan, loves playing with him, loves blocking with him, it makes my life a lot easier. He makes everyone’s life a lot easier … Trent, like a little bit injured is still better than I think, “Almost everyone in the NFL regardless of position. So having him back has a huge impact on us and will allow us to do many more things in the running and passing game.”