SANTA CLARA – Running back Joe Williams led the 49ers in rushing yards during the exhibition season as a rookie, but he did not create an overall favorable impression.
Williams was placed on season-ending injured reserve with a minor foot injury heading into the regular season. He came back for the offseason program this year and has placed himself in position to compete for a roster spot.
“I think he has a different mindset – understands a little bit more the standard of the NFL and difference,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday as the club opens a two-day minicamp to close out the offseason program.
“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.”
Williams rushed for 130 yards, averaging 5.2 yards a carry, in the exhibition season a year ago. But his work ethic, consistency and problems with fumbling did not help his cause.
Even this year, it will be difficult to break into the 49ers’ top three running backs: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, who is one of the club’s best players on special teams.
But Williams has shown the reasons the 49ers traded up to select him in the fourth round of last year’s draft.
“When it is blocked right, he has the size and the burst to get through there as fast as anyone,” Shanahan said. “But it’s just about doing it day-in and day-out and protecting the football, and what do you do when the run doesn’t look good. What do you do without the ball in your hands?
“Joe has come a long way in a year, and I’m excited about him coming back to training camp.”
SANTA CLARA -- 49ers tight end George Kittle showed up on the injury report with a groin strain last Friday. Two days later, he looked completely healthy going up against the Los Angeles Rams.
Kittle was held out of practice on Wednesday, but he returned to limited work during the 49ers’ padded work on Thursday at their team facility. Kittle downplayed the team’s report of his physical condition and is expected to play Sunday against Washington.
Kittle caught eight passes for 103 yards in the 49ers’ 20-7 victory over the Rams on Sunday.
However, the 49ers had seven players who did not participate in Thursday's practice. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon remain out of action.
[RELATED: McGlinchey had tough time watching 49ers' win from home]
Running back Raheem Mostert (knee), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (groin) and nose tackle D.J. Jones (hamstring) sustained injuries in the 49ers’ win over the Rams that have kept them from practicing thus far this week.
49ers practice report
Did not practice
DT D.J. Jones (hamstring)
FB Kyle Juszczyk (knee)
T Mike McGlinchey (knee)
RB Raheem Mostert (knee)
WR Deebo Samuel (groin)
T Joe Staley (fibula)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon (foot)
DE Dee Ford (quadricep)
TE George Kittle (groin)
CB K'Waun Williams (hand)
Washington practice report
Did not practice
S Deshazor Everett (ankle)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (hamstring)
G Wes Martin (chest)
CB Josh Norman (thigh, hand)
RB Chris Thompson (toe)
TE Vernon Davis (concussion)
QB Case Keenum (right shoulder, foot)
RB Adrian Peterson (quadricep)
The NFL trade deadline is set for Tuesday, Oct. 29. But some teams, such as the Los Angeles Rams, did not wait until the last minute. There were a flurry of trades Tuesday – a full two weeks before the deadline.
Meanwhile, the 49ers have not made a trade since a couple of deals on the third day of the NFL draft in late-April.
Still, general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan are looking forward to adding multiple starting players to their lineup in the coming weeks.
No, the 49ers are not expecting to acquire a player or two from outside the organization at any cost. Instead, they expect to shore up some areas of their team with the return of key players from injuries.
The 49ers expect to fortify their lineup with the returns of offensive tackles Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and slot receiver Trent Taylor.
Lynch and Shanahan said the club is always looking to improve, but they always will weigh the short-term benefit and the long-term advantage of any trade.
Here's a position-by-position look at the 49ers’ prospects for making a trade