Though he's reportedly making progress with his rib injury, Williams missed out on his chance to push for a spot on the 53-man roster. Coach Kyle Shanahan famously lobbied for the Niners to select Williams in the fourth round of last year's draft, but undrafted free agent Matt Breida (shoulder) turned out to be the team's rookie gem in the backfield. It won't be a big surprise if Williams draws some interest around the league in the coming days.
Williams suffered a ribs fracture that coach Kyle Shanahan said will sideline him for "a while," ESPN's Nick Wagoner reports.
Williams will at least miss Week 1, according to Shanahan, who updated the media regarding his team's injuries Sunday night. The coach continued by saying it hasn't been determined whether Williams will be placed on injured reserve/designated to return, but it's clear the Niners will have to make do without him until further notice. With Williams joining fellow tailbacks Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (shoulder) on the shelf for the rest of the preseason, Jeremy McNichols, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert and Jeffery Wilson suddenly figure to compete for larger roles in the meantime.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan revealed that Williams sustained a rib fracture in Saturday's preseason loss to Houston and will miss the beginning of the regular season, ESPN's Nick Wagoner reports.
The injury comes at a tough time for Williams, who was in the thick of a competition to win a backup role with the 49ers this year after spending his entire rookie season on IR. The team hasn't decided whether they will use their IR (with designation to return) on the back, as they have an offensive lineman also dealing with a serious injury. Either way, Williams' health will ultimately decide his fate for the second consecutive preseason.
Williams carried the ball 11 times for 27 yards and a touchdown in Thursday's preseason win over Dallas. He added 15 receiving yards on two receptions.
Williams didn't have a strong game from a yards per carry standpoint, but he has received positive reviews in camp for an improved work ethic following a disappointing rookie season. The 24-year-old has been competing with Raheem Mostert for No. 3 on the 49ers' depth chart, but Matt Breida's shoulder injury could elevate that competition to the primary backup role if the running back is forced to miss extended time.
San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Williams looks much better than he did last season, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. "I think [Williams] has a different mindset - understands a little bit more the standard of the NFL and difference," Shanahan said Tuesday. "Joe's come a long way. I think his body looks a lot better than it did last year. He put on a lot of muscle mass and he took advantage of the year of not playing."
Shanahan reportedly lobbied the San Francisco front office to draft Williams in the fourth round last year, perhaps believing the Utah product could push Carlos Hyde for a starting job. Instead, Williams failed to make an impression during the offseason program and training camp, ultimately landing on injured reserve after he injured his ankle in the final week of the preseason. The 24-year-old made a full recovery before the end of his rookie campaign, but the 49ers didn't bring him back from injured reserve, sticking with Hyde and undrafted rookie Matt Breida in the backfield. Hyde has since been replaced by Jerick McKinnon, who signed a four-year, $30 million contract that includes $11.7 million guaranteed. Williams may have a chance to compete with Breida for the backup role, but a roster spot isn't guaranteed. The Niners carried special teams ace Raheem Mostert (knee) as their No. 3 back last season, and they also brought in 2017 fifth-round pick Jeremy McNichols to compete for a job.
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