SANTA CLARA — Another offseason means another recovery session for 49ers wide receiver Kyle Williams.
A year ago, he mentally bounced back from his punt-return gaffes in an NFC Championship game loss to the New York Giants. These days, Williams is physically progressing from a Nov. 25 knee injury, but he's restricted from fully participating in the 49ers' organized team activities.
"I want to be out there cranking with my guys, steer the young guys in the right way and go through the struggle with them," Williams said this week. "But we've got to be smart. You can't put the foot down on the gas if all the parts aren't running right yet.
"We've got to stick to the protocol from Day 1."
Williams' rehabilitation is going well, however.
He is on course to fully return once training camp begins in two months, although teams often wait a few days into camp before clearing previously injured players.
"I feel great and I'm making progress every single day," Williams said. "I want to stay on that same path and be ready for Week 1."
Entering his fourth season, Williams probably will be part of a rotation of receivers who will be deployed in place of Michael Crabtree, last year's leading receiver who is sidelined for the next six months or so because of an Achilles tear.
With Anquan Boldin entrenched as a starter, Williams is a leading candidate to start at the other spot, as his recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament is further along than that of Mario Manningham, who was injured Dec. 23.
The 49ers also are hoping a young receiver emerges, such as A.J. Jenkins, Ricardo Lockette, Quinton Patton, Marlon Moore, Chad Hall or Joe Hastings.
"Don't sleep on any of the young guys we have, because they can all play," Williams advised.
"They want to play. They want to learn. They're working their tails off. Again, don't sleep on these guys."
Williams spent last offseason admirably answering questions about his struggles in the NFC Championship game, when he mishandled two punt returns as an injury replacement for Ted Ginn Jr.
Williams not only stayed on the 49ers' roster, he was on the verge of breaking out with Colin Kaepernick's ascension to the starting role.
Williams produced a career-long 57-yard touchdown reception in Kaepernick's first career start, a Nov. 19 rout of the Chicago Bears. The play exhibited the chemistry they had developed on the practice field throughout the 2012 offseason.
In the 49ers' next game at New Orleans, Williams suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the same play that running back Kendall Hunter tore an Achilles tendon.
These days, Williams and Hunter retreat to a side field to do individual running drills during OTAs, once they do light drills with their respective position groups.
Williams served as the 49ers' punt returner — without negative incidents — while Ginn missed the first three games last season, and Williams also saw time as a kickoff returner.
With Ginn leaving in free agency for the Carolina Panthers, Williams will compete with LaMichael James and others for return duties.
"I definitely want to help this team any way possible," Williams said. "If it's on punts, kickoffs, whatever they need, I'm in there.