Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers players say Jimmy Garoppolo looks ‘real good’ and has improved since last week

Jan 6, 2022 at 4:58 PM--

Jimmy Garoppolo's playing status against the Los Angeles Rams this week probably won't be known until gameday, but it sounds like he's been making visible strides in practice, based on what his teammates said Thursday.

Garoppolo sat out last week's win over the Houston Texans in favor of rookie Trey Lance due to a thumb injury that may or may not require surgery in the offseason, but he's been back at practice this week as the 49ers prepare for their season finale in Los Angeles (4:25 p.m. ET/1:25 p.m. PT, FOX). He was naturally a popular topic of conversation during post-practice media sessions on Thursday, with reporters wanting to know the players' perspective on how he's been performing.

Among those asked about Garoppolo was wide receiver Deebo Samuel, who said he hasn't noticed much of a drop-off from what he normally notices from his starting quarterback.

"Jimmy just looks like Jimmy to me -- same confidence, same throws, same balls, same energy, same everything," Samuel said. "I don't think he took a step backwards ...It doesn't look like to me that his thumb hurts and he's out there doing a good job this week."

Also weighing in on Garoppolo was tight end George Kittle, who said he's noticed some steps in the right direction compared to what he saw after Garoppolo sustained the injury against the Tennessee Titans on December 22. (Kittle was caught on video earlier in the day giving some vocal praise to one of Garoppolo's passes.)

"I think compared to last week, I think he looks better," Kittle said. "I don't know what it feels like. I know chipped bones don't feel great. I'll just let Jimmy's quote speak for itself. I know it hurts. So whatever he's doing out there, I think he's doing a really good job so far and we'll see what happens these next couple days."

Running back Elijah Mitchell was succinct in his evaluation of Garoppolo, as he often is when answering questions from reporters.

"Jimmy's been looking real good, so we've just got to get him to Sunday and it'll be all good," running back Elijah Mitchell said Thursday.

Mitchell also showed some respect for Garoppolo's ability to play through pain, which is something both players have had to deal with on numerous occasions this season.

"Jimmy's a freak, so he just has that mentality that he can play through anything, and that's what you've got to have," Mitchell said. "We're football players, we go through injuries, so you just have to learn how to play with them sometimes."

Offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel was a little more cautious in evaluating Garoppolo's progress, telling reporters that the team is still closely monitoring the situation so they can decide if he is healthy enough to make it through an entire game. McDaniel pointed out that in addition to how well Garoppolo is throwing the ball, the team is watching how well he'll be able to hold onto to the football in other situations.

"One of the things that is one of the biggest motivating factors in deciding on Sunday is whether or not he can handle the ball," McDaniel said. "Just like throws, we've had to put him through it for sure. But you try to do it in moderation so you don't set anything back and you give the player the best chance to succeed on Sunday if he's able to go. But we're not really concerned about that. We're concerned about executing our offense and making sure both quarterbacks are ready so we can handle whatever comes our way."

Garoppolo would undoubtedly prefer to play on Sunday, given the fact that the 49ers can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Rams. But the high stakes of Sunday's game are causing him to be cautious. There's plenty of reason to think his presence would help against the Rams, but it could also be a hindrance if he's not healthy enough to perform at a high level.

"He's a tough guy. It is cool to see a guy try to work through pain, but he's also trying to be smart," McDaniel said. "He knows he has to be responsible to the football team because all of his teammates have worked blood, sweat and tears to get to this point. We're in Game 17 with an opportunity to extend our season, so he doesn't take that lightly. So that's been cool, and we trust that if he's able to give it a go, it's because he knows he can hold up his end of the bargain for his teammates and all of the Niners Nation."

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