Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo reveals his advice to Trey Lance, discusses why he hopes this season will be similar to 2017

Sep 22, 2022 at 4:55 PM--

Just like he did on so many occasions from 2017 to 2021, Jimmy Garoppolo took to the podium on Thursday to talk with reporters as the San Francisco 49ers' starting quarterback.

Only this time the feeling was a little different, based on the unusual circumstances surrounding the current 49ers' quarterback situation. After an offseason and preseason full of speculation over where the 49ers would send him in a trade, Garoppolo now finds himself preparing for the 49ers' Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos after the player who was expected to replace him, Trey Lance, suffered a season-ending ankle injury in the team's 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2. The last several weeks have been a roller coaster ride for Garoppolo, who went from being trade bait earlier in the summer to agreeing in late August to a restructured contract to be the 49ers' backup quarterback to now being expected to lead the team that wanted to replace him to the playoffs for the third time in four years.

The whole thing is unquestionably a little surreal, but Garoppolo has stayed prepared and is ready for his next start against the Broncos in Denver on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC).

"You always want to be on that field, so you always have in your mind that you're preparing that way," Garoppolo said Thursday. "Just for how things have worked out, it's pretty crazy. But I don't know, everything happens for a reason. I'm a big believer in that. It's just another opportunity."

Garoppolo had plenty to talk about on Thursday, starting with how he's dealing with the latest twist in his roller coaster ride with the 49ers as well as what advice he has for Lance as he begins the long road back from a season-ending injury. Even though replacing an injured quarterback is a first for Garoppolo, he has plenty of knowledge about what Lance is going through now, having seen his 2018 season end in Week 3 due to a torn ACL.

"I've never been a backup and have a starter get hurt like that, so it was a different experience," Garoppolo said. "But it was something you take in stride. Like I said before, Trey's our brother. I talked to him the other day. He seems to be good spirts right now."

Lance underwent surgery earlier in the week and will eventually start the long rehab process needed to get him back on the field. But until then his challenges will be mental, which is something Garoppolo can help him with along the way.

"I heard [defensive end Nick Bosa's] presser the other day, and he worded it pretty well because there is a moment when you feel like your life is over, and I can never get back to where it was, but that passes," Garoppolo said. "You've got to hit a point where it does pass, and you've mentally moved on from that. There will be hurdles for him to overcome, but I've been around Trey for a couple of years now; he's a tough dude, so he'll be all right."

When he's not dealing with whatever may be going on in his head regarding his injury, Lance will need to challenge himself to stay mentally sharp when it comes to the game of football. Lance has already started that process and will need to continue to do so in the months ahead by staying on the same page with the rest of the quarterback room and taking mental reps when he can.

"He's already been in a couple of meetings with us through Zoom and stuff like that," Garoppolo said. "Whatever you can do mentally. Physically, it's tough right now, but he'll get back."

While it's easy to paint a picture of what the next few months will look like for Lance, it'll be intriguing to see how the next chapter ends for Garoppolo. Garoppolo was sidelined for most of the offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery, then was working out on his own while the 49ers were trying to figure out what to do with him during training camp. But he didn't seem to show signs of rust when he was called upon to lead the 49ers to victory against the Seahawks, and now he'll be expected to bring more wins the 49ers' way, despite what happened over the summer.

"Yeah, a long break," Garoppolo said. "No OTAs, no training camp. It was a different type of year. I've been in some weird situations here, obviously. But this one, it had some good and bad though. The shoulder feels good, and obviously that's number one. Once I was physically feeling better, the rest of the things kind of fell into place I guess."

Garoppolo threw for 154 yards and one touchdown against the Seahawks and came out throwing the ball with frequency despite being away from the team for months. Could the remainder of the season bring more of the same? He certainly seems to hope so. Garoppolo mentioned after the game that the aggressive approach reminded him of his first months with the 49ers in 2017 when he was firing the ball all over the field while learning head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense on the fly, something he talked about once again during his media session on Thursday.

"I love that," Garoppolo said. "Yeah. It's just there's a lot of things that go with that obviously. But yeah, I love doing that stuff. In '17, there was a freedom where me, the receivers, the tight ends, we had a good chemistry going. When you get that with offensive skills in a quarterback, it makes for a tough offense."

Could there be more of that to come? Perhaps we'll start to find out Sunday night.

"I think we'll see that as we go forward. I don't know," Garoppolo said. "The more freedom you have as a quarterback, obviously, you play better, you're more confident, and good things will happen."

Either way, Garoppolo will have plenty of talent to work with when Shanahan decides to air the ball out. He'll have an array of familiar targets such as wide receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jauan Jennings, as well as tight end George Kittle. And he also has two new targets to choose from in wide receivers Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray, who can provide him with a threat downfield. Garoppolo is still working on establishing chemistry with McCloud and Gray, but things seem to be coming along quickly.

"It's been awesome," Garoppolo said. "There's some good players out there man. I'm not trying to pump anyone up too much, but some of those guys can fly. Ray-Ray can move. Danny can move. There's a lot of speed out there. The chemistry's coming. It's coming. And it'll only get better."

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