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Why Trent Williams Believes Jerick McKinnon will be 49ers' Breakout Star of 2020

Trent Williams answered a question most football players politely avoid during training camp.
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Trent Williams answered a question most football players politely avoid during training camp.

A reporter asked Williams which 49ers player he’s most eager to see play in person this summer. Williams is new to the 49ers -- they traded for him this offseason. So he hasn’t practiced with the 49ers yet.

Most players would answer this question by saying they’re eager to see all their new teammates -- a political answer that offends no one.

Williams didn’t give the political answer. He actually named a player.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams said. “The way he has looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

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“Jet” is Jerick McKinnon, the running back the 49ers signed in 2018 who still has not appeared in a game for them. He tore his ACL and missed the past two seasons.

But, McKinnon seems healthy now -- he’s not on any of the 49ers injury lists. And he spent the offseason in Houston working out with Deebo Samuel, Adrian Peterson and Williams. Meaning Williams already has seen McKinnon work out in person. And from what Williams has seen, McKinnon is ready to make an improbable comeback.

No one would know McKinnon’s recovery status better than Williams, because he watched McKinnon’s grueling workouts all offseason. So when Williams says he can’t fathom McKinnon not being a breakout player, Williams’ words carry tremendous weight.

We all certainly hope Williams is right about McKinnon, because McKinnon is a nice guy who’s had awful luck the past two years. But I just can’t think of any running back in NFL history who missed two years with a knee injury, then returned and played well.

Can you?