SANTA CLARA (AP) — Kyle Williams is ignoring the barrage of hateful, hurtful, even threatening comments he has received via social media in the aftermath of his ill-timed fumble that cost the San Francisco 49ers the NFC championship game against New York.
Williams said Monday he takes full responsibility for his fumble on a punt return in overtime of a 20-17 loss to the Giants on Sunday night that set up Lawrence Tynes’ winning field goal, calling the moment “painful.”
“I really didn’t pay attention to Twitter. All the feedback I needed was family and friends, the guys in the locker room,” Williams said.
Instantly, Williams was made a villain on the Internet.
He insisted it’s part of his job to face the criticism in the aftermath of his mistakes and not hide out in a difficult time. Perhaps that will go a little way in calming down the angry fans, some of whom wished harm on Williams and his family after the gaffes.
“It’s one of those things you have to take accountability for,” Williams said. “Everybody is responsible for what they do on the field. It’s something that I was responsible for and I made a mistake and it’s time to own up to it and move forward.”
Kicker David Akers took to Twitter on Monday asking people to stop with the harsh remarks directed toward his teammate, saying “ppl need to get a grip! Leave Kyle alone!” He also reminded everybody the NFC West-champion 49ers (14-4) win and lose together, so there would be no finger-pointing in the locker room.
“I’m irritated with the way people are treating him, absolutely,” Akers said. “I think it’s ridiculous. You know, get a grip on what life’s about. He went out and he put his soul out there. That’s what he does. He was not trying to do anything other than make an incredible play for this team. He had a great kickoff return. Mistakes happen. We all make mistakes. But when you’re out there truly battling to do the best you can, my hat goes off to him, to anybody that does that.”
Many of the 49ers spent the time after the game and into Monday thinking about the missed chances, and not just by Williams.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of players supporting Williams. “This is a class bunch of guys, a class group, a class team. They have never been a finger-pointing group.”
Williams has spoken to his father, Chicago White Sox general manager Ken Williams, and also heard from players around the league who offered their support. Ken Williams told ESPN on Monday that his son might have separated his shoulder in the third quarter before making a pair of critical blunders.
Williams, filling in for injured return man Ted Ginn Jr., also fumbled with 11:06 left in regulation. The Giants won a challenge that the ball touched Williams’ right knee and Devin Thomas recovered. That gave the Giants the ball back at the 29 and Eli Manning then threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham with 8:34 remaining.
The 23-year-old Williams, born in nearby San Jose, said Monday he still doesn’t think the ball hit his knee.
“I told him to keep his head up. Things happen like that when you’re trying to make a play,” running back Frank Gore said. “Kyle did a great job for us all year. We can’t just point the finger at that. It’s a football game. Things happen, and he’ll be fine. He’s going to work hard. He’s a great player and he made great plays for us this year. I’m happy he’s a teammate of mine. I’ll back him up any time.”
A year ago with the Eagles, Akers missed a pair of field goals in the NFC divisional playoffs as Philadelphia lost 21-16 to the eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.
“I was that guy last year,” Akers said. “It’s tough because we’re all competitors and we all give it everything we have. Kyle’s made a lot of big plays for us. He’s just trying to make plays out there. The weather conditions were horrible. I know he’d never give any excuses for any of that. I say this and I say it in the truest way: We win as a team, we lose as a team.”
Williams, a second-year pro out of Arizona State, stood at his locker a day later and expressed his regret while also noting how eager he is to get back to work soon. Harbaugh said tests Monday on Williams’ shoulder didn’t reveal a separation but that he was extremely sore.
“Nobody feels worse than he does,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Some of the stuff out there that I’ve seen, man, I was just like, ‘They’re saying that because they’re hurting.’ But we live this game, we breathe this game, we sleep this game. If they feel that way, you can only imagine how bad he feels. You never want anyone to go through anything like that. It’s just unfortunate that it happened to a player like him. To me, he’s one of the best skill players in this game. … I’m sticking behind him. He’s still my teammate.”