Ex-49ers NT Ian Williams shares details of career-ending ankle condition


Ex-49ers NT Ian Williams shares details of career-ending ankle condition

Nose tackle Ian Williams, who sustained fractures to his left ankle in back-to-back seasons, finally made it through an entire season healthy.

Williams experienced a breakout year with the 49ers in 2015, and was set up for a big payday as an unrestricted free agent. And on the eve of free agency, the 49ers agreed to terms with Williams on a five-year contract worth a reported $27.5 million.

But less than two weeks later, then-general manager Trent Baalke told reporters at the NFL owners meetings in Boca Raton, Florida, Williams had failed a physical due to an ankle condition. The sides worked out a revised one-year contract.

Williams never played another snap for the 49ers, and on Tuesday he revealed details about the complications from two ankle fractures that ended his career just as he was reaching his prime football years.

“It was a tough time,” Williams said on the 49ers Insider Podcast.

Neither the 49ers nor Williams’ agent disclosed any information about the cause or extent of Williams' physical condition. Williams said he initially heard speculation he injured himself in an accident involving an all-terrain vehicle. He said nothing could have been further from the truth.

Williams said he was walking around Los Angeles with friends early in the 2016 offseason when he first began to feel something was wrong with his ankle. And sensation continued to worsen as he went to Miami to begin his offseason training program.

“I had some surgeries to clear up – I had a bad infection that came back that kept me out longer heading into the 2014 season,” Williams said.

“It was really bad. Luckily, they caught it in time so that I could have the surgeries and get it cleaned out. It basically destroyed my joints. That’s why I haven’t been able to resume my career.”

Williams said he had five or six surgeries over a period of a couple of months in 2016. He knew early on that his football career was over. And if the infection had not been discovered until much later, the consequences could have been even-more devastating.

“After the first surgery I kind of knew then from what the doctor told me what happened and what was going on with my ankle,” Williams said. “Right then and there, it was a pretty rough time in the hospital with my mom.”

Williams, now 28, continues to undergo therapy and rehabilitation on his ankle in the Bay Area, he said.

“I’m doing much better these days,” he said.

“(I’m) trying to get this ankle as good as it can be, so I can play with my kids and do stuff as I get older.”

The initial injury in Week 2 of the 2013 season was the result of a since-outlawed chop block from then-Seattle right guard J.R. Sweezy, who dove at Williams’ legs while attempting a back-side block on a run play to the left.

Williams underwent surgery and missed the final 14 games of the season due to a fractured left lower leg. Williams said he did not use proper technique on the play. It was a large price to play for making a simple mistake.

“That was on me, not being on my P’s and Q’s and not running with the play,” Williams said. “I think I false-stepped the wrong direction first before he dove into my ankle. Just the fact that you make one mistake, you shouldn’t have someone diving at your ankle. If a receiver makes a mistake, you don’t have someone diving at his ankle or knee.

“I’m just glad that they changed that rule. They’re doing more player safety rules now, so I’m really, really excited about that for the future.”

The NFL passed a rule in 2016 that eliminates all forms of chop blocks.

Williams re-fractured his left lower leg after appearing in nine games of the 2014 season. He returned at the beginning of the 2015 season and played in a career-high 16 games before developing the career-ending complications in the offseason.

“It’s always tough to face reality and know that the chapter you’re in is about to close,” he said.

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

Josh Rosen calls uncertain Cardinals future before NFL draft 'annoying'

One year ago, Josh Rosen had to think he was the Arizona Cardinals' future. General manager Steve Keim traded up to draft the quarterback with the No. 10 overall pick, but a lot can change in one year. 

Now, with the 2019 NFL Draft one week away, Rosen's future is up in the air.

“I definitely understand the situation,” Rosen said in a talk with SI TV. “I mean, it’s annoying but, like, it is what it is. Football’s a business, and I definitely respect the higher-ups and their decisions."

Despite having Rosen on the team, the Cardinals and new coach Kliff Kingsbury are expected to take quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Plenty can change, however, and on Tuesday, Kingsbury said Rosen has been "phenomenal" this offseason.

The 22-year-old QB already has dealt with change and uncertainty plenty of times in his young football career. Since his freshman season at UCLA through his NFL rookie season, Rosen has played under five offensive coordinators in four years.

Rosen went 3-10 as the Cardinals' starter last season (two of those wins were over the 49ers), and he threw for 2,278 yards and 11 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. While those aren't great numbers, QBs who are first-round picks typically receive many more chances to prove themselves. Rosen, however, might not have that chance in Arizona, but he said he's not sweating it.

"I think the best advice I've ever gotten in life, from so many different people, is control what you can control," Rosen said. "And whatever decisions are made, it's my duty to prove them right if they keep me and prove them wrong if they ship me off."

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If the Cardinals do ship off Rosen and draft Murray, they'd become perhaps the biggest storyline to watch in football. They'd also allow the 49ers to draft Nick Bosa with the No. 2 pick, setting a rookie pass rusher versus a rookie quarterback in the NFC West for years to come.

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

Joe Staley offered scouting report on Dee Ford before 49ers made trade

When the 49ers were shopping for an edge rusher during free agency, they sought the advice of veteran offensive lineman Joe Staley, who offered valuable information regarding Dee Ford

Staley faced off against Ford in Week 3 of the 2018 season when the 49ers traveled to Kansas City to face the Chiefs. He had first-hand knowledge of Ford's much-noted first step off the line.

“That’s what I love about this franchise,” Staley said. “The guys that we have here really reach out to the players about guys that are going against them, guys who have gone against certain players and ask for feedback. 

“I don’t know how much stock they take into to that but just the fact that they reach out to the players and ask their opinions on all that stuff.”  

When Staley was asked if Ford was truly explosive, he gave a very succinct reply. 

“That’s a correct statement,” Staley said. “He’s one of the most explosive players I’ve played against. He was definitely a challenge to go against last year and every time I’ve ever played him.”

Shortly after Ford was signed by the 49ers, he gave a similarly complementary statement about Staley and his physical ability. 

“He’s athletic and he’s strong and he has functional strength,” Ford said. “Functional strength is so important. Every offensive line is strong. They’re huge, they’re big, they’re strong. That’s a given. But he has functional strength, which is rare. He’s a pure athlete with a savvy skillset. So you’re not going to beat him a lot.”

Staley recalled one instance where he thought the Ford had taken advantage of a no-call by the referees. 

“It was a challenging game,” Staley said. "He got me early on with that sack, the first step, that quickness. I was like 100-percent certain that he was offsides, he was that fast. But going back in the film he just timed it up super right on it.

“It’s that first step, get-off. You see guys like Von (Miller) have it. Even bigger guys like DeMarcus Lawrence has that explosive first step. He’s a bigger pass rusher. That really sets up everything they can do and gets the tackles and the offensive linemen playing on their heels and reacting a little bit more than they want to.”  

It was a memorable game for Ford as well, which included banter between the two of them. 

“We talked during the whole game,” Ford said. “It was fun. It was fun. It was trash talk, but we were enjoying it. I really admire his game. And that was huge for me, because he admired my game. He’s a vet. He’s a future Hall of Famer, and it’s huge to hear that from a guy like that.”

Staley remarked that he can’t wait to pick Ford’s brain and go against him in practice every day. He thinks it will make each of them better players. 

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Staley is very pleased his scouting report on Ford was influential in bringing the star edge rusher to California. So much so that he may have a future in scouting.

Well, at least according to Staley himself.