SANTA CLARA -- Jimmy Garoppolo will be back under center for the 49ers' Sunday night matchup with the Indianapolis Colts, but Jimmie Ward might be more relieved about another player’s return to the field.
Quietly returning to practice on Monday was K’Waun Williams, who missed two weeks with a calf strain sustained in the 49ers' home opener vs. Green Bay Packers. Ward was visibly relieved when asked about “the shark” being back in the lineup.
“Oh, man,” Ward said on Monday. “Phew, man. Dontae [Johnson] did his thing though. I got to shout my boy Dontae out. He is a smart instinctive player. I loved Dontae’s play when K.K. was gone. Donte can plug in anywhere but K.K., all he plays is nickel.”
The 49ers secondary has the tough task of limiting Carson Wentz and a very explosive Colts offense, which has not been afraid to stretch the field with both a 52 and 28-yard touchdown strike in Week 6.
T.Y Hilton, who returned in Week 6 after missing the first five games with a disc issue, was ruled out due to a quadricep injury. Parris Campbell, who was responsible for the 51-yard touchdown last week, has been placed on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Wentz still has Michael Pittman and tailback Jonathan Taylor as reliable targets. With rain in the forecast for Sunday night, the short game could be what each offense relies on for production.
Williams is a key element in defending the short game while also being valuable in defensive blitzes. Ward appreciates the nickelback’s consistency at the position as well as his experience.
The 49ers secondary that also includes Jaquiski Tartt and Emmanuel Moseley has been playing together for several seasons.
“To me, [Williams] is the best in the league,” Ward said. “I don’t see a lot of guys playing man coverage like K.K. He can play man, zone, he can blitz. He creates turnovers. I don’t even think too many guys block him, they have to double team him a lot.”
Williams, who might be one of the most under-the-radar pieces of the 49ers' defense, could be the key to the club coming out of Sunday's game with a win.