OAKLAND (AP) — Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams insists his son, Kyle, is motivated by all he endured late last year with the 49ers and through the offseason, when details emerged that he was among the players targeted in the Saints' bounty program.
Earlier this month, a recording came out of former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams instructing players in January to "put a lick" on Kyle Williams to see if he had lingering effects from a concussion. The NFC West champion 49ers beat Drew Brees and favored New Orleans 36-32 in the NFC divisional playoffs.
Kyle Williams then lost a fumble on a punt return in overtime of a 20-17 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants that set up Lawrence Tynes' winning field goal in the NFC title game. He immediately took responsibility for the mistake.
"I'm proud of him. That's what he's supposed to do. That's what you have to do," Kenny Williams said Tuesday night before the White Sox played the Oakland Athletics. "He signed up for the gig, he knows what comes with it. The good thing about him is he will use this as fuel. He already is."
Chicago's GM also is thrilled to hear 49ers general manager Trent Baalke plans to give the wide receiver and return man a fresh start this season, saying: "They should. I'd like him to stay here because I love what they have going on down there and the culture."
"I'm not down on Kyle Williams, nor is anyone else in this organization," Baalke said last week as he prepared for Thursday's NFL draft. "It's done, it's over with, and we're moving forward. We're very confident in his ability. ... I'm very confident that Kyle will get past the incident of last year and is ready to move on. And he'll get better because of it."
In fact, from afar, Kenny Williams has used the 49ers' turnaround last year under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh as a model for his own franchise. He hired manager Robin Ventura to replace the volatile Ozzie Guillen, now with the Miami Marlins.
"I learned some things from them this past offseason. Part of the reason I made the decision and the hire that I did with Robin is based on what I saw from one year to the next and the culture change I saw between Trent and with Jim," Williams said. "To a large degree, I'm seeing a lot of similarities here by bringing in a guy like Robin, who has leadership abilities that are a cut above and communicative skills that surpass most. We've got a bond going on here that hopefully I've seen before.
"I think if you're an executive in sports and you're not always trying to learn from your own past experiences but from what you see in the landscape of not just in your own sport, I think then you're missing the boat on learning opportunities and growth opportunities," Williams said.
The Niners went 13-3 and ended an eight-year stretch without a playoff berth or winning record.
Kyle Williams suffered a late-season concussion, though his father said he was just fine to play.
"I think that's all been overstated," the father said. "He wouldn't have gone out there if he wasn't healthy."
Still, it was enough for Gregg Williams to single out Kyle Williams.
Gregg Williams oversaw and contributed money to the illegal bounty fund for planned vicious hits on opponents and has been suspended indefinitely from the NFL for his involvement in the scheme from 2009-11.
Kenny Williams himself was a talented kick returner at Stanford in his day. He plans to return to the Bay Area once his career in baseball is over.
"This is home. This is where I plan to one day come back, once I get fired, whenever I get fired," he said, laughing. "I'm planning on coming back and making a life out here."