49ers’ nickel back Williams suffers ankle sprain

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SANTA CLARA — The 49ers suffered another significant injury to their secondary Sunday morning.

Starting nickel back K’Waun Williams sprained his left ankle during team drills. He exited practice riding shotgun in the trainer’s cart. Williams is the second 49ers starting defensive back to injure himself since Friday, when cornerback Richard Sherman gave up a long catch to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, then suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain chasing him across the field.

Williams sprained his ankle making a terrific play. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had just completed a screen pass to wide receiver Aaron Burbridge. Williams sprinted into the backfield and tagged Burbridge for a 1-yard loss before he even took a step.

The play was over. Williams ran past Burbridge and raised a finger in the air, letting everyone know he made the stop and not someone else. Then, his left leg buckled, and he dropped to the ground.

Teammates saw Williams in pain and yelled for the trainers to come over. Practice resumed. Sherman stayed with Williams and watched with arms crossed and a serious look on his face as the trainers worked on Williams’ left ankle. Sherman ruptured his Achilles tendon last November. He can sympathize with lower-leg injuries.

After five minutes, Williams stood up and walked slowly to the sideline. Then, he sat back down, and the 49ers head trainer Jeff Ferguson wrapped Williams’ left ankle tight with athletic tape.

Williams got up again and tried to hobble across a side field, past a parking lot and into the 49ers training facility, but made it only halfway across the side field before he went back down. The trainer walked away. Williams sat alone with his eyes closed and his head resting on his raised knee. The trainer a few minutes later returned with a cart, and drove Williams out of sight.

“I heard he just rolled his ankle,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said after practice. “We will find out more later. Right now, we don’t think it’s (a) high (ankle sprain), but we’ll see.”

A high ankle sprain typically takes six weeks to fully recover. A common Grade 1 ankle sprain generally takes one to two weeks to recover.

Williams, 27, was the 49ers best and most consistent cornerback last season. He originally signed a one-year, $615,000 contract with the 49ers on February 21, 2017. They grew to like him so much, they gave him a three-year, $8,850,000 extension on September 29, 2017. After only three games with the team.

In 2017, Williams recorded one interception, five pass breakups, one sack and 42 tackles for the 49ers. He missed two games with a quadriceps injury.

In 2016, Williams missed the entire season with an ankle injury, and it required surgery. But, it was his other ankle, his right ankle.

The severity of his latest ankle injury remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, the severity of Sherman’s hamstring injury seems somewhat clearer.

“We’re definitely going to rest him at least a week,” Shanahan said Sunday. “We don’t think it should be long term. It’s Grade 1, but it’s a little higher than we expected, so we’ve got to be careful with that.”

A Grade 1 hamstring strain usually takes one to two weeks to heal.

But, Shanahan mentioned the strain is “higher than expected,” and stressed the need to be cautious with Sherman. Upper hamstring injuries can be serious. A common one is high hamstring tendinopathy, which can take eight to 12 weeks to heal.

The 49ers want to make sure nothing that severe develops. So, they may bring back Sherman slowly after his week of rest. The team said he will “progress back” next week, suggesting he will return gradually. He may not participate in 11-on-11 team drills for two or three weeks.

And he certainly will not play in Thursday night’s preseason game at Levi’s Stadium against the Dallas Cowboys. It seems doubtful Sherman will play in their second preseason game in Houston against the Texans on Aug. 18.


In addition to Sherman, the 49ers also gave guard Joshua Garnett the week off to rest and rehabilitate.

Garnett injured his left knee July 28 during the 49ers first padded practice of training camp. Initially, the 49ers said Garnett “banged” his knee and merely suffered a contusion. But, Garnett hasn’t played in eight days.

“He has gotten some other opinions,” Shanahan said Sunday. “He will continue to get treatment, and we will reassess next week.”

Garnett injured the same knee last year during training camp and had surgery. He missed the entire season. He has reason to be cautious.

During a July 30 practice, he watched in street clothes and walked with a slight limp while wearing a protective sleeve on his left leg. He did not appear close to returning.

Thirty minutes before the 49ers announced Garnett’s injury status for the week, they signed guard Chris Gonzalez. To make room for him on the 90-man roster, they waived safety Corey Griffin.

Did Garnett’s injury cause the 49ers to sign Gonzalez?

“Yes,” Shanahan said. “It was Josh and also (guard) Alan Knott. His dad passed away this morning. So, he had to go home obviously and be with his family.”

Knott, 23, is an undrafted rookie offensive lineman from the University of South Carolina.

Gonzalez, 23, is an undrafted rookie offensive lineman who signed with the Minnesota Vikings on April 30. They released him on July 28. Gonzalez played at San Jose State, where he made 36 starts at right guard.

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