Kyle Shanahan is really trying to make it seem as though Jimmy Garoppolo has a chance to start for the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday when they take on the Houston Texans at Levi’s Stadium.
“The trainers are taking him out right now to see how much he can do. If he can do some, he’ll be limited today. If not he won’t practice, we’ll try again tomorrow,” Shanahan told Bay Area media during a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon.
Garoppolo tested the thumb out but left the field before Wednesday’s practice started, and the team signed quarterback Tyler Bray to the practice squad. Bray was previously with Kansas City (2013-2017) and Chicago (2018-2020).
After Shanahan described Garoppolo’s injury as a thumb sprain on Monday, there were additional reports later in the day that included a fracture. On Wednesday, Shanahan clarified the injury.
“On the third-degree sprain he had on his UCL, when that is ripped up, it pulled off a little fleck of his bone,” Shanahan said. “And when there is a bone that has something off of it, you can call it a fracture, you can call it a chip, you can call it something.
“But that really isn’t what’s keeping him out. It’s the third-degree sprain that he has, but because it’s not moving he doesn’t need surgery and he has a chance to play this week.”
If Garoppolo is unable to play, Shanahan will look to rookie Trey Lance to keep the 49ers playoff hopes on track.
Lance has not attempted a pass since making his first NFL start against Arizona in early October, but he has been preparing for the opportunity.
“Trey’s been preparing like he’s going to start every week,” said Shanahan. “He’s developed a routine throughout this year that’s no different if he’s the backup or the starter.
“He’s excited because he sees early in the week he’s got a chance of possibly starting, and he definitely gets to start a practice today, so I know he’s excited about that.”
Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Monday that this last month has been Lance’s best consecutive four weeks of practice since joining the 49ers, and the defensive coaches and players would all say the same. Fred Warner was asked about what he’s seen from Lance over the last month.
“I think his confidence has continued to grow and grow,” said Warner. “I think early on in the season working on the scout team he was playing things safer, using his legs a lot to run, didn’t want to throw an interception.”
It may have been a conversation with the All-Pro linebacker that helped turn things around for Lance.
“I kind of had to pull him to the side and tell him, ‘This is your opportunity to take chances and develop in that part of your game. Take a chance. See if you can fit the ball into tight spaces. Can you make a big play down the field?’ said Warner.
“After that conversation he started to just grow, and you started to see these crazy plays where he’s just getting the ball right over guy’s fingertips and making great plays downfield. It’s just a confidence thing.”
The 49ers will need Lance to show that growth on if called upon to face the Texans. San Francisco could clinch a playoff berth with a win over Houston and a New Orleans loss to Carolina on Sunday.