In the last few days, Jimmy Garoppolo has lost his back-up status, has ditched the hotel room that was home for his first month here and – fingers crossed – soon will remove the plastic wristband that serves as a cheat sheet for the 49ers’ plays.
“We’ll see how the week goes,” Kyle Shanahan said when asked about the status of the wristband that Garoppolo has worn for every practice and game so far. “That really depends on how he feels. … I want him to feel real comfortable going into this game. So we’ll see how he feels at the end of the week.”
Shanahan wanted to wait as long as possible before sending Garoppolo, acquired on Oct. 30, into a game so that the quarterback could learn as much of the 49ers’ voluminous playbook as possible. The coach’s hand was forced this week when erstwhile starter C.J. Beathard suffered hip and knee injuries Sunday and had to leave the game.
Beathard was unable to practice Wednesday, but Shanahan said he and the training staff are “optimistic” the rookie will be able to serve as Garoppolo’s backup Sunday in Chicago.
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This week should accelerate Garoppolo’s learning curve.
Even though he’s been here a month, quality practice snaps are hard to get in the middle of a season. Wednesday’s practice was the first time Garoppolo has worked with San Francisco’s first-team offense from start to finish. He’s thrown to starters such as receiver Marquise Goodwin and tight end George Kittle over the last month, but the vast majority of those passes have come during warm-ups, not in the context of Shanahan’s offense and not with anyone playing defense against them.
“I think this week will really help,” Garoppolo said of developing chemistry with his offensive weapons. “Getting that timing down with those guys is a crucial thing between quarterback and really any skill player – tight ends, receivers, running backs, all those guys. They all have specific things that they do well. We’re trying to showcase those.”
On Sunday Garoppolo not only will make his third-ever NFL start, he’ll do so at Soldier Field – about 25 miles from where he grew up. He expects to have “a ton” of family and friends in the stands, but Shanahan said he wasn’t worried that the location of Garoppolo’s first start would add a troubling layer of pressure to his week.
“He doesn’t seem too high or too low,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s a very even-keeled guy. It’s been awesome for him to be around someone like Tom (Brady), those guys in New England. Jimmy’s not going to make too big a deal about things. He fully understands what this business is, what his job is. I don’t think he thinks about going to Chicago to see people. I know he’s going there with one thing in mind, just like we all are.”
The bigger concern is making sure Garoppolo can operate the game plan smoothly and efficiently, perhaps to the point where he can leave his wristband on the sideline.
“I think it’s just kind of a feel thing,” Garoppolo said when asked when he’ll know he can remove it. “I don’t think there’s really one thing or another that’ll tell us, ‘Hey, you’re good on the wristband.’ Me and Kyle have been talking about it. We’ve got a nice game plan right now for the week of practice and how we’re going to go about it. We’ll see what happens at the end of the week.”