NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Kyle Williams can't believe the New York Giants weren't punished by the NFL for targeting him in last year's NFC championship game.
The punt returner whose mistakes cost the 49ers a chance to make the last Super Bowl, and who will miss Sunday's game against Baltimore with an injured left knee, said Wednesday he is "shocked" that the Giants escaped discipline.
"The only thing crazy to me was that nothing came of it after they came down so much on the Saints," Williams said.
"The league announced the bounties and that (former Saints defensive coordinator) Gregg Williams said the same things the Giants were saying. They took it to the highest level they could with the Saints. But it seemed like the league decided it was no big deal what the Giants said."
What Giants special teamers Jacquian Williams and Devin Thomas said after New York's 20-17 overtime victory sounded similar to what the Saints were sanctioned for.
"The thing is, we knew he had four concussions, so that was our biggest thing was to take him out of the game," said linebacker Jacquian Williams, who forced the 49ers returner's overtime fumble, which set up the winning field goal.
Thomas recovered both errors — the first was considered a muff when the ball glanced off Williams' right knee.
"He's had a lot of concussions," Thomas said. "We were just like, 'We've got to put a hit on that guy.'"
The NFL did not punish either player following that game, saying, "There was no conduct by the Giants of any kind that would suggest an effort to injure Kyle Williams in any way."
And the Giants were not penalized once the Saints bounties were announced.
"Guys are trying to put guys out of the game every game, so it did not surprise me," Kyle Williams said. "You know a guy has a history of injuries, you'll go after it. You might not say it, but you do it."
But the Giants said it.
"Yeah," Williams said with a shrug. "But it's all in the past now. And we're at the Super Bowl."
The Giants declined to comment Wednesday.
Williams also was subjected to hateful, even threatening comments via social media after the 49ers lost the conference championship game. He talked with his father, Kenny, the executive vice president of the Chicago White Sox, and was comforted by his dad's advice.
"He told me that a strong man gets through this," Kyle Williams said. "He said, 'I have no doubt you will,' and that's the last time we talked about it."
Williams felt guilty about last year's loss, but said teammates immediately came to his defense and supported him. He is getting the same vibes from them now as he watches while they play for the NFL title.
"We're like a family, and we comfort each other, help each other out," he said. "The guys like myself and Mario (Manningham) and Kendall (Hunter), who are hurt and can't play, we're still a big part of our success."
Coincidentally, Williams was injured trying to avoid Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma — one of the players initially suspended in the bounty case — in San Francisco's 31-21 win at the Superdome on Nov. 25. He re-entered the stadium for the first time Tuesday during Super Bowl media day, admitting it felt "strange."
He also said he has an empty feeling, but that would change with a win Sunday.
"Honestly it's been bittersweet because I'm not lacing them up, I'm not going to be able to be out there," Williams said. "But I'm still there with them. I'm playing my role in a sense.
"I'm a semi-coach at this point, helping out the younger guys, whatever I can see on the sidelines. I've got the earpiece in ... I have a limited role right now, but it's my role. I've got to do it."
The 49ers insist upon it. Their general manager, Trent Baalke, spoke with Kenny Williams about the importance of Kyle remaining involved in the 49ers' everyday routine.
Not that the father expected anything less of the son.
"He's been around athletics all his life and he knows there are different factors that go into ultimate team success," Kenny Williams said. "That's one of the things that has been expressed to me from Trent directly is that Kyle's got some leadership abilities and he did not want him to go away like some guys do when they get hurt. He wanted his voice heard and he wanted him front and center with all the responsibilities. I'm glad to hear that he's following through on all that."
Still, Kyle Williams would prefer to follow through on it with a big catch or long punt return.
"It ticks me off, because you want to suit up and help the team and you can't," he said.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in New Orleans contributed to this story.