Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers TE George Kittle expects QB Jimmy Garoppolo to ‘come out firing’ in training camp

Jul 27, 2021 at 3:37 PM--

Given what happened over the first half of 2021 and how he responded to it during spring practices, it would come as no surprise if 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo winds up making a major statement with his play during the upcoming preseason.

The 49ers made it clear in April that Garoppolo no longer had a hold on the starting quarterback job over a long-term basis when they selected rookie Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL Draft. But Garoppolo responded to that decision with a sharp performance during team workouts in May and June, and it's very possible he carries that over into the next few weeks as the 49ers proceed through training camp and the preseason schedule.

As a matter of fact, tight end George Kittle expects Garoppolo to do exactly that after what he saw from the veteran quarterback during the spring.

"He looked like he had little bit of fire in him," Kittle told reporters Tuesday. "I think he's always had that but he was a little more intense, and I really appreciate that out of him. I'm fully expecting Jimmy to come out of the gates firing this camp. I'm excited to play with him, I'm excited to line up next to him, and I'm excited to be back in the huddle with him, because he's going to play at a very high level."

Garoppolo has been the subject of criticism in recent years due to his injury history and perceived on-field shortcomings. There are those who expect the 49ers to make the switch to Lance sooner rather than later given his combination of arm strength and mobility that Garoppolo doesn't have, while others wonder if Garoppolo can stay healthy after missing much of 2020 with an ankle injury and much of 2018 with a torn ACL. But Garoppolo will start training camp as the team's No. 1 quarterback, and as Kittle mentioned Tuesday, he'll have a noticeable experience advantage to go with the faith of the other players on the roster.

"I think ever since Jimmy's been here he's played at a very high level for us, especially practice, like the way he conducts himself on a daily basis," Kittle said. "He was slinging the ball throughout OTAs. I know you guys weren't there for many of them, but he was playing at a very high level. Our ones offense looked really good and was very efficient. We were clean. He has full control over the huddle and I know he has a whole team that believes in him."

Regardless of who winds up under center in the near future, the 49ers will be heading into the regular season with their eyes on returning to the Super Bowl after a disappointing and injury-filled 2020. Kittle is looking forward to seeing what Lance can do once camp gets into full swing, but he expects big things from the 49ers this season no matter who's taking the snaps at quarterback.

"It doesn't really change anything," Kittle said. "The goal is to win the Super Bowl. I know that [general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan] are going to put whoever they think is best at the helm. I know that Jimmy's a hell of a quarterback, and I've said that for the last three years, and I've defended Jimmy. Everyone always questions all of his attributes and how good of a football player he is, which still confuses me, because I still think he's a hell of a football player. I'm excited to see what Trey does out there. Camp's a great time for competition. It's a great time to see guys come out of their shells and really push to get better every single day. Like everybody in this room I'm excited to see some competition out there, whether it's quarterbacks, offensive line, D-Line, tight ends. We're going to have a lot of guys out there competing for playing time."

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