SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Kyle Williams circled this week’s game against the New York Giants as soon as the NFL schedule was released in April.
He and his San Francisco 49ers teammates have some unfinished business against the Super Bowl champions.
Williams’ two turnovers on punt returns played a key role in helping the Giants win last season’s NFC championship game 20-17 in overtime, costing San Francisco a trip to the Super Bowl.
“There’s a few teams that I look forward to. Of course after what happened last year I definitely want to get back at these guys,” Williams said Tuesday. “We look at it as if they have something that we should have had. We’re going to make sure we don’t leave anything on the field again.”
Williams and the Niners (4-1) get their chance against the Giants (3-2) on Sunday in a rematch that has far less at stake than that meeting last January.
Williams played a central role in that game as a fill-in punt returner for the injured Ted Ginn Jr. Early in the fourth quarter, Steve Weatherford hit a short, bouncing punt that Williams came up to try to field. He backed away at the last minute, but the ball glanced off his right knee and was recovered by Devin Thomas at the San Francisco 29. That set up New York’s go-ahead score.
Williams helped atone for his miscue when he returned the ensuing kickoff 40 yards to help set up David Akers’ tying field goal late in regulation.
But on his second return in overtime, Williams gave the ball away again. He fielded the punt at the 19 and was stripped by Jacquian Williams. Thomas once again pounced on the ball at the 24, setting up the Giants’ winning kick.
Kyle Williams said he won’t approach the rematch any different, despite what happened less than nine months ago.
“I’m comfortable in the way I approach every single game,” Williams said. “I’ll be comfortable this week going into it. I can’t wait. I’m not trying to do too much. We don’t need anyone to do too much on this team. Everybody plays their role and does what they have to do. We’ll be fine. We’re a great team.”
After the NFC title game, Jacquian Williams and Thomas indicated they were trying to hit Williams given his history of concussions, including the most recent one sustained the month before the NFC title game that sidelined him for one game.
Later in the offseason, a recording of former New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams emerged from before the first playoff game that purports to capture him telling players to “put a lick” on Kyle Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion.
“I’ve never been targeted for something like that before,” Williams said. “I guess it’s different in a sense. It’s not something that I think was a major focal point for them to make sure they knocked me out of the game. It sounds stupid when you look back it. We’re playing football. Everybody is going to try to get to the ball. Everybody is going to try to make a play on the ball. That’s football. I don’t pay too much attention to anything like that.”
Williams appreciated the support his teammates and coaches showed after the loss in January and has paid them back with his performance so far this season. He has returned four punts and six kickoffs so far this season without a fumble.
He has also caught four passes for 66 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown last week against the Buffalo Bills. The 49ers offense has looked vastly superior so far to the one that lost to New York last January.
The Niners wide receivers combined for just one catch that game. The wideouts, with a boost from offseason additions Mario Manningham and Randy Moss, are averaging nearly 12 catches combined a game this season.
“We had a whole offseason to work together,” Williams said. “I think we’re more polished than anything. We have more weapons. We added a few guys and they have helped us tremendously this year.”
NOTES: The 49ers added LB Clark Haggans to the active roster. He was suspended the past three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. … San Francisco waived LB Eric Bakhtiari to make room on the 53-man roster.
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.