49ers punt returner Kyle Williams, the object of scorn (and threats) from fans angry with his fumble in overtime that handed the NFC Championship to the Giants, may have an excuse. Somewhat lost in the postgame commotion were comments from a couple of Giants players that suggest they targeted Williams for vicious hits early in the game because they knew he suffered four concussions in the past. Whether he suffered another concussion on Sunday or not, those Giants players believe it made a difference.
After the game, reporters crowded around the locker of Jacquian Williams, who'd forced the second fumble, hoping for an angle: Had the Giants noticed something about Kyle Williams's technique, some weakness in the 49ers punt-return scheme? "Nah," Williams said. "The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing, was to take him outta the game."
Devin Thomas, the reserve wide receiver who recovered both of Kyle Williams's fumbles, was even more explicit. "He's had a lot of concussions," Thomas told the Star-Ledger columnist Steve Politi. "We were just like, ‘We gotta put a hit on that guy.' ... [Giants reserve safety Tyler] Sash did a great job hitting him early and he looked kind of dazed when he got up. I feel like that made a difference and he coughed it up."
As Wallace-Wells notes, the fumble in overtime was hardly the only time during the game that Williams looked a bit off -- he made several questionable decisions on punt returns throughout the game, even if those didn't result in a turnover. It's impossible to say whether those mistakes were the result of nerves or yet another concussion, but it's eye-raising (and a bit scary) to realize the Giants specifically tried to cause the latter.