Williams' return answers one question on 49ers' defensive line

Williams' return answers one question on 49ers' defensive line
August 13, 2014, 7:45 am
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Ian Williams was lost for the season last year after sustaining a broken left lower leg in Week 2 against Seattle. (USATSI)

Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula did not have a whole lot of company during the 49ers’ joint practices with the Baltimore Ravens.

The 49ers’ line was down to five healthy players -- Demarcus Dobbs, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine and Mike Purcell -- for the three practices with the Baltimore Ravens.

But coach Jim Harbaugh predicted “reinforcements” were on the way. And that’s what happened Tuesday with the team’s medical staff giving clearance to nose tackle Ian Williams to be activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list.

[RELATED: 49ers activate Williams from PUP]

Remember, Williams beat out veteran Glenn Dorsey during training last summer for the starting job. Dorsey took over and played well on base downs when Williams was lost for the season due to a broken left lower leg in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks.

Now, Williams is the first in line to replace Dorsey, who underwent recent surgery to repair a torn biceps. The 49ers have another three weeks to determine whether to designate Dorsey for a return later in the season.

[RELATED: 49ers evaluating whether Dorsey can return this year]

Williams' return signals the first appearance for one of the 49ers' projected starters on the defensive line. Defensive ends Justin Smith (shoulder) and Ray McDonald (biceps) have yet to step on the practice field after undergoing offseason surgeries. Both players are expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

On July 23, the day veterans reported to camp, Smith intimated he was ready to play.

“I feel healthy compared to last year,” Smith said. “I feel a lot better than I did last year.”

In the meantime, potential rotation players Carradine, Dial, Jerod-Eddie and Dobbs, are getting a lot of action.

Defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye, who is likely fighting for a spot on the practice squad, missed the three practices with the Ravens after sustaining an ankle sprain in the exhibition opener on Thursday. X-rays were negative, but Okoye was on crutches the day after the game.