KANSAS CITY, Mo. – One game. Four plays. No touches of the ball.
That encapsulated Chiefs wide receiver Kyle Williams’ first year in Kansas City in 2013.
Williams, who was claimed on waivers from San Francisco last November, appeared briefly on special teams Nov. 17 at Denver before suffering a torn ACL in his left knee in practice a few days later. It was the exact injury he had in 2012 with the 49ers, forcing him to rehab the same knee all over again.
But now, Williams, 26, is fully recovered and battling for a spot as a slot receiver.
“I told (teammate) A.J. Jenkins today, I feel better than I’ve ever felt,” Williams said. “I feel more polished as a route runner, and I feel as explosive as I’ve ever been.”
The Chiefs’ coaches are seeing a revitalized side of Williams as well.
“He’s starting to get back to where he was physically,” said assistant head coach/wide receivers David Culley. “He wasn’t that way early in camp. You could kind of tell he’s starting to loosen up a little bit, and he’s starting to make some plays.
“We knew when we got him he was very good on the inside. He knew how to run the slot. He’s a very good route runner in there. He knows how to uncover. He’s got a very good feel for it.”
Williams (5-foot-10, 186 pounds) caught 47 passes in parts of four seasons with San Francisco, mostly on the receiving end of throws by Alex Smith, now his quarterback with the Chiefs.
“The slot is home,” said Williams, a sixth-round pick by the 49ers in 2010, “and having Alex in there is home for me, too. I grew up in this league with Alex as my quarterback. Having him in there is extremely comfortable to me. He knows my body language already.”
Smith doesn’t hide his enthusiasm for Williams’ role in the offense.
“Kyle is a very, very polished receiver,” Smith said. “He’s played all over the field, as far as receivers go – slot, inside, outside. He has a good understanding of defenses … because he has experience. You can sense the energy he has because coach (Andy) Reid and the offensive staff do such a great job of moving guys around and knowing their strengths and putting them in situations where they can succeed.
“I’m excited for Kyle. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s battled through a lot of injuries the last few years, so I’m happy for him to be back out here.”
Williams, the son of Chicago White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams, was drafted by the White Sox out of high school in Scottsdale, Ariz., but chose to play football at Arizona State.
While recuperating from his second knee surgery, he wondered if he had made the right choice.
“I miss baseball,” Williams said, “but I made a commitment to this game. I’ve been blessed to be in my fifth year, even with the injuries. When you have two knee surgeries in a year, you think, ‘What if I played baseball?' But I made the right decision. I’m happy, and I’m excited, and I can play this game.”
Williams is also tracking the success of the Royals and has adopted them as his second-favorite team after the White Sox.
“I’d rather have the Royals win the division than the Tigers,” he said. “I’m sick of the Tigers winning it. If we’re not going to win it, then since I’m playing out here, I'll jump on the Royals’ bandwagon.”