49ers’ Trent Williams excelling at ‘carefree’ football, inspiring others with Silverback documentary

SANTA CLARA — Trent Williams headed off from the 49ers’ media podium Tuesday when Fred Warner stepped forth with a heartfelt message.

“My inspiration right here,” Warner, the humble linebacker, said of Williams, arguably the NFL’s most dominant left tackle.

Williams’ “Silverback” documentary came out a week ago, and Warner was among those enlightened about the life-threatening cancer battle Williams overcame in 2019, before resuming his Pro Bowl career with the 49ers last season.

“I was happy and super blessed to get through what I got through,” Williams said. “To know I can help others get through those same rough times, it was a no-brainer to help put that story out and share the testimony, to see who it could help motivate.”

Williams, himself, still draws inspiration from that frightening battle with sarcoma on his scalp, not that he needs a reminder to watch the videos of his surgery that are part of his movie, which carries his on-field nickname.

“I do think about that often on game days, and it allows me to go out and play carefree, because I’m basically playing with house’s money at this point,” said Williams, who became the NFL’s highest-paid offensive linemen this spring. “I do feel more comfortable than I’ve ever felt, as strong as I’ve ever been, and my football IQ is better than it’s ever been.”

WIlliams figures to receive his ninth Pro Bowl invitation Wednesday. Other 49ers likely to merit Pro Bowl honors are defensive end Nick Bosa, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end George Kittle and wide receiver Deebo Samuel.

Even though he didn’t campaign for it, teammates did, and that’s not just because many attended the “Silverback” premiere last week in San Mateo.

“Have you seen his documentary yet? Fantastic,” Warner said. “Most of the guys didn’t even know his story, what happened with cancer and him staring death in the face. That’s wild stuff.

“It makes sense. He talks to the team to play this game as if it’s your last snap. It’s real.”

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t seen the movie, yet. But two months ago, before beating the Bears, he learned keen details about Williams’ story.

“In Chicago, we stayed the down street from the hospital he was at. It was the first time he opened up about it,” Garoppolo said. “That’s real, life stuff. It’s different from football. That’s your life. … The man he is, having gone through all that, you tip your hat. There’s not many people that can go through what he did and come out the other end.”

GAROPPOLO, STAT LEADER

Garoppolo is averaging a NFL-best 8.48 yards per attempt, not that it matters much to him. “The yards-per-attempt doesn’t dictate win or losing. Third down and red zone are the quarterbacks’ true stats, when the money is on the line,” Garoppolo said. “As long as we’re winning games, I could care less what the stats are.”

Garoppolo’s completion percentage, according to the Washington Post, is 56.3 percent in the red zone, but he’s completed 12 of his 18 touchdown passes down there, with no interceptions. He’s converting 43.2 percent of his third-down passes, ranking 13th in the NFL.

ELIJAH MITCHELL’S PROGRESS

Elijah Mitchell is not practicing ahead of a third straight game, but the 49ers’ brass expressed optimism about the rookie’s knee issue, stemming from a Dec. 2 hit in Seattle that also caused him a concussion.

“He had some encouraging things happen this weekend,” Shanahan said of the team’s leading rusher, who is out of the concussion protocol.

“The good news is this week we’ve taken a positive turn,” general manager John Lynch said on KNBR about Mitchell’s knee. “It is tough on a short week, there is not going to be a lot of full speed reps to test it. Elijah’s proven worthy to have opportunity to see on game day if he’s ready. “

Jeff Wilson Jr. is coming off a 110-yard, one-touchdown effort, and Deebo Samuel has run for a touchdown in each of his past five games. Trey Sermon (ankle) had his three-week practice window activated to come off injured reserve.

HEALTH CENTER

Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair (elbow) and safety Jaquiski Tartt (ankle) were cleared for limited practice but linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin) and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst (calf) remain sidelined. It was to be determined whether safety Talanoa Hufanga (knee) would practice.

Special teams ace Trenton Cannon remains in the concussion protocol since a Dec. 5 hit in Seattle, but his health is improving and he attended team meetings Tuesday.

REVENGE OF THE NERDS

Warner didn’t object to Shanahan calling the 49ers a “nerdy group” that would celebrate responsibly (see: sleep and recover) after Sunday’s win with a short turnaround for Thursday night’s game at Tennessee.

“I guess that’s a way to put it. It’s a different group,” Warner said. “We all love football enough to know you’ve got to know when to dial in and when to let loose. Using the offseason in that aspect, we know that stuff will be there later on, and now is the time to put complete focus on football. If we take care of business now, Christmas will be a lot better after a win than a loss.”

THOUGHTS ON TITANS

Both Shanahan and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans vouched for the Titans’ physical and run-oriented approaches.

“They commit to the run. They call more than anyone in the NFL, in all situations, on third down, too. And they’ll do it when behind,” Shanahan said. “It’s what they believe in and why they’re hard to beat all these years.”

The Titans have rushed for over 100 yards in each of their past four games, even after losing Derrick Henry to a foot injury on Halloween.

“They want to run and be physical, and it hasn’t changed, no matter what running back is back there,” Ryans added. “It’s the kind of ball you get into, into December: More meaningful, run-game heavy, guys not trying to make mistakes and turn the ball over. It’s going to be ‘May the best team win.’ Not a lot of trickery going on.”

LIGHT SHOW

The 49ers moved practice inside Levi’s Stadium to accommodate the 5:30 p.m. start time (and mirror Thursday night’s kickoff schedule). Shanahan quipped that they’d otherwise have to hold up their iPhone flashlights if they stayed on the neighboring practice fields after sunset.

 

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