SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- After a long wait in which his body was able to heal and he gained what he calls a new perspective on football, Trent Williams is embracing his role as the San Francisco 49ers' left tackle.
Speaking to the Bay Area media for the first time since the Niners traded a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 third-round selection to the Washington Redskins on Saturday, Williams offered insight into what the past year-plus was like for him as he held out, as well as the lengthy process that finally ended with his trade to San Francisco.
Williams, who hasn't played in a regular-season game since Dec. 30, 2018, because of a dispute with the Redskins over the handling of his injury issues as well as his contract, said the best part about the time off was the chance for his body to recover.
"It's crazy being 31, I feel like I'm 25 again," Williams said. "It's my first year off of football since the second grade. So that's like 25 years of straight football every August. So, my body has had a chance to rest, it's had a chance to heal. I don't know if I've ever been in a position where I didn't feel an ache or pain. I'm just going through offseason training. I feel rejuvenated to say the least."
Williams' rejuvenation isn't limited to his body. Upon arrival in San Francisco, he will take over as the starting left tackle for recently retired Joe Staley.
The trade to the Niners allowed him to reunite with coach Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington when the Redskins drafted him fourth overall in 2010. Williams said the 49ers have a handful of other coaches with whom he's familiar and said he knows the offense like the back of his hand. Because of that, he said an abbreviated offseason with no on-field work should not be a hindrance as he adapts to a new team.
Williams said the Niners also offer a chance for him to do something he hadn't done much of in Washington: win. The Redskins played in just two playoff games in Williams' 10 seasons there, while the 49ers are coming off an NFC championship. Williams said he watched almost every 49ers game last season and came away impressed.
"I've played a lot of football, I haven't won a lot of games," Williams said. "I just wanted that to change. I'm an ultracompetitive guy regardless. I tend to probably go the extra mile when I shouldn't. Doing that when you know that at the end of the year when you have a real possibility of holding up the Lombardi Trophy, I think it makes you -- it's a lot easier. The vibe is different. You work for a different reason as opposed to just trying to maintain a level of elite play when games might not go your way every Sunday."
Although Williams' eventual destination was in Washington's hands, he acknowledged that once he heard the 49ers and Shanahan were interested, they quickly became one of his favorite possible landing spots.
"I'm extremely excited to get back in the building with not only Kyle but a ton of coaches in there who were with me for the first four years of my career," Williams said. "It's going to be a happy reunion. This was a preferred destination of mine just because of the familiarity with Kyle and the offense. Obviously being an ascending team, I feel like I'd fit right in."
Williams also addressed rumors from last weekend that he had turned down a trade to the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings and Redskins had engaged in talks but Williams said there "wasn't necessarily a veto from me." Instead, Williams said the Vikings' long-term plan for him didn't sync with his own long-term plan, leaving the Vikings to drop out of the bidding for his services.
As for a possible contract extension with the Niners, Williams agreed with coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's assertion from the weekend that both sides were OK taking a wait-and-see approach.
Williams is due to count $12.5 million against the salary cap in this, the final year on his deal.
"Obviously there's an incentive for me to play well," Williams said. "I mean, they give up a third-rounder next year, they kind of invested in the deal as well. I think both parties are interested in something long term. I'm more than OK with kind of just getting my feet wet and just playing it out."
As Williams and the rest of the NFL await instruction on what comes next this offseason, he is staying in Houston and training with running back Adrian Peterson in a gym they own together. Video of Williams squatting 585 pounds surfaced on social media earlier this week and Williams said staying in shape has been easy for him.
Now, Williams is itching to meet his new teammates, get reacquainted with Shanahan and his staff and, most of all, return to the football field.
"It was extremely difficult," Williams said. "It was my first time in two decades where I wasn't in a locker room in August. It was definitely a turning point in my life, take one of the most important things away but it is what it is. I think it made me stronger. I had a lot of time to sit back and watch the game from afar, just to get a different perspective on it and you gain a different appreciation for it."
And, finally, a fresh start.