In the 2013 off-season, the San Francisco 49ers signed nose tackle Ian Williams to a two-year contract extension. The contract seemed indicative of the team's confidence in Williams, even letting their two primary nose tackles walk before the 2013 season. The 49ers starting nose tackle position was open for competition and Glenn Dorsey was considered by some to be the front-runner at the nose tackle position, because he was the first free agent signing last offseason.
At the beginning of the 2013 season, WIlliams emerged as the starter at nose tackle. Given his build, it is not surprising he won the role as the zero technique lineman. Unfortunately, Williams season was cut short Week 2, in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle ran a toss sweep to Marshawn Lynch for two yards. On the interior, Williams, playing on the right shoulder of center Max Unger, started to defend the run. Out of Williams' view and while engaged with Unger, Seahawks right guard J.R. Sweezy dove at Williams' left leg. Williams' left fibula (ankle) was broken and he suffered extensive ligament damage on that then-legal cut block. Since then, Williams has had four surgeries in an effort to repair the ankle. During the offseason, the NFL passed a rule making this kind of block (a long-time staple for some offensive lines) illegal.
Williams was placed on Active/PUP to start training camp, as he was finishing up his rehab. He spent nearly three weeks on the list, but was activated on August 12. During training camp, Glenn Dorsey suffered a biceps injury which placed him on the injured reserve/designated to play list. Williams returned to his nose tackle role, and opened the season as the starter. Unfortunately for Williams, early in November, he suffered a fractured fibula and was subsequently placed on the injured reserve list.
This week Williams posted some video of his rehabilitation treatment on Instagram.
As you can see from the video, Williams is having therapy on his left ankle and lower leg. Some were curious what type of therapy was being done. It looked to me to be the Graston technique, when specific tools are used to detect and relieve adhesions from muscle and tendons. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that adhere or bind two organs or tissues together.
Williams confirmed my belief with the following tweet.
"@SoCaliSteph: @NinersNation @IWilliams95 it's the Graston technique, the tools detect and relieve adhesions in muscle and tendons."— Ian Williams (@IWilliams95) March 30, 2015
Graston method can be a painful treatment. The tool actually works to break up adhesions under and inside the muscle and tendons. However, after several sessions, the adhesions can break up and dissolve. This is likely to increase his range of motion and strength, but relieve most of his pain following surgery.
Although Williams suffered two devastating injuries, Williams is built like a true nose tackle. He is broader and stronger to anchor the position. There is no question Williams, when healthy, is a guy who can fill the role.
Seeing the Graston technique is encouraging. Even though it appears to me Williams has some edema (swelling, inflamation likely caused by the break and surgery), Graston technique is considered conservative treatment. If scar tissue or adhesions were becoming problematic for Williams, the doctors would perform surgery to clean it up. The 49ers will likely ease him in, but odds at this stage is he will return sometime early in training camp.