Ted Ginn, who's absence at the end of the 2011 season had major ramifications for the 49ers, left Sunday's game and did not return. X-rays taken on his right ankle were negative, Jim Harbaugh said.
That put Kyle Williams under the spotlight against the Broncos and perhaps for the season opener Sept. 9 against Green Bay. Williams fielded three punts for 30 yards after Ginn left the game in the third quarter. In addition, he fair-caught another attempt while also forcing a fumble while playing gunner on punt-coverage at the end of the game.
Both of Williams' miscues on punt returns in January's NFC Championship led to scores by the New York Giants, including the game-winning field goal in overtime. Since then Williams has been on a mission to absolve himself. He took only a week off during the offseason and returned to the 49ers 12 pounds bulkier than he was at the end of last season.
His mindset if he's the one returning punts at Lambeau Field: "Let's go."
"My confidence level is always at 100 percent," he said. "I don't feel uncomfortable at all back there." Williams also had the longest reception of the exhibition season for the 49ers after catching an out route from Colin Kaepernick on the sideline. The Broncos defensive back broke on the ball, missed it and Williams gained most of the yards on the run.
'He said he probably should have stayed along the sideline instead of breaking the run to the middle of the field. "I definitely have to score on that play," he said. "I should have scored."
Williams was one of several players - along with cornerback Perrish Cox, running back Anthony Dixon, guard Leonard Davis, defensive end Will Tukuafu and outside linebacker Kenny Rowe - whom Harbaugh said had "hard-working" performances.
"It seemed like a full game - a lot of action for Kyle," Harbaugh said. "He played very good in the return game. He played good on the offensive side of the ball."
Ginn, meanwhile, hobbled off the field after gaining nine yards on an end around in the third quarter. He limped into the X-ray room and did not return to the sideline. Ginn suffered a knee injury in the divisional playoffs against the Saints, causing him to miss the following week against the Giants. Ginn still was rehabilitating that injury during spring practices.
Davis had a busy game because, in addition to his regular role as a backup guard, he entered throughout the contest as an extra tight end. The 49ers often used an extra offensive lineman as a tight end last season with Alex Boone and Chilo Rachal typically filling that role. Davis could have that job this year.
"I thought there was a lot of improvement from Leonard today ... really coming off the ball," Harbaugh said. "He had some physical plays. I thought he got rhythm. He was just in sync today. Just better."
Davis didn't play a snap last year as a member of the Lions. Sunday signaled that even if he's not a starter, the 355 pounder will have a role for the 49ers on game days. "If they feel I'm not going to be a starter, I'm not going to whine or cry about it," Davis said. "That's what it is."
Tukuafu, meanwhile, played left defensive end and fullback on Sunday. He had two big blocks to help spring Anthony Dixon, one of which occurred on Dixon's 26-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
Et cetera - Quarterback Alex Smith flubbed a snap in the first quarter, and the ball was recovered by the Broncos. It was Smith's first turnover since he threw an interception Nov. 24 against the Ravens.
* Outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari, who is fighting for a spot on the roster, left the game after taking a knee to the side of the helmet. Newcomer Ikaika Alama-Francis filled in.
* Cornerback Chris Culliver (knee) did not make the trip to Denver. Tramaine Brock entered the game as the No. 3 cornerback. Another cornerback, Cox, intercepted a pass from backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, Cox's second of the exhibition season.
-- Matt Barrows