This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
SANTA CLARA, California – True to his word, San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan declined to name a starting quarterback for Sunday’s win-and-in final of the regular season against the Los Angeles Rams.
The last three days, a series of comments from Shanahan and other 49ers and Friday’s injury report have at least made it clear that Jimmy Garoppolo actually has a chance to return this week from the right thumb injury that kept him out in Week 17.
Officially, Garoppolo is listed as questionable on the injury report after participating in all three training sessions on a limited basis. He still shared reps with rookie Trey Lance, who started against the Houston Texans in his place last week.
But do not be mistaken for Shanahan’s silence with indecision. There is a plan in place; he just does not want to reveal it yet as the 9-7 Niners come to Sunday and need a win or draw or a New Orleans Saints loss or draw to qualify for the playoffs.
“I do not decide on Sunday morning,” said Shanahan, who on Wednesday said he would not name a starter until Sunday. “We have no training left. I know where Jimmy is today. I know where Trey is. I know where our team is. I feel pretty good about where we are. I’m excited to get to Sunday. .
“I’m really glad I did not have any press conferences after today, so once I’ve survived this, I’m done talking about it. I think we’ll be good after it, but I think You understand why you do not sign up, but regardless, especially with Trey who played last week, we have two guys here with some experience that our team is happy with and we will see how it plays out. sig. “
While Shanahan played similarly nicely last week, there was little doubt that Lance would start against Houston because Garoppolo did not train at all during the week, and Shanahan repeatedly pointed out that Garoppolo could use the extra time to potentially play against the Rams.
This week, there is a bit more doubt, though there are plenty of signs that Garoppolo will regain his starting job against a team that the Niners have beaten all five times Garoppolo has started against them.
Teammates like tight-end George Kittle and receiver Deebo Samuel mentioned that Garoppolo threw the ball well in practice, though Garoppolo on Wednesday acknowledged that throwing will be more about pain management than his ability to do so.
“Jimmy just looks like Jimmy to me,” Samuel said. “Same confidence, same throw, same ball, same energy, same everything. I don’t think he took a step back. It doesn’t look like his thumb hurts and out there is doing a good job this week.”
Shanahan did not give many details, but said on Friday that Garoppolo had “a good week of training when he was in there and I’m fine with where he is right now.” Earlier in the week, Shanahan said Garoppolo did not have to be 100 percent to play against the Rams.
According to Lance, he and Garoppolo shared reps with the starters during team practice. Garoppolo has had a sleeve over his right hand and thumb with tape over in an attempt to keep it stable.
There are remaining concerns about how well Garoppolo would hold up over the course of an entire game, especially when it comes to taking snaps below the middle and any potential hits that the thumb might take.
“It’s something we’ve had to be aware of that we’ve tried not to overdo,” said offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel. “One of the biggest motivating factors in the decision on Sunday is whether he can handle the ball or not.”
For Lance’s part, another week of meaningful snaps with the starters has been helpful. He went 16-of-23 for 249 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 116.0 in his second NFL start last week.
Looking back, Lance said he felt there was good and bad, but he learned a lot from each snap. It seems to have served him well in training this week, as Shanahan said Lance was “a little bit better” this week than last.
Which means the Niners and Lance have a bit more confidence that the rookie will play if need be, and even be able to use Lance situationally, as they did in the opening week of the season.
“Jimmy is back limited this week, so of course it was good for me to still be able to get some reps,” Lance said. “At the same time, it was unique to work through it with Jimmy because we were able to talk through representatives that we both get. But I think Kyle did a great job for me personally, just by being able to prepare me this week and still be able to get some reps without knowing what’s going to happen to Jimmy on Sunday. “