From the daily practice schedule to flying out two days early, the 49ers are treating Saturday’s third preseason game like it’s a regular-season contest.
“I think it’s very important that players, coaches, everyone, we are creatures of habit, and preseason we’re all over the place,” coach Kyle Shanahan said this week. “But you want them to get into that routine to where all seven days are all kind of Groundhog Day, over and over.”
The plan is to get most of the starters, including Jimmy Garoppolo, a full half of action against the Colts. It’s the final dress rehearsal before traveling to play the Vikings on Sept. 9. The team departed for Indianapolis on Thursday.
Practices this week were moved to the afternoon to mimic the regular-season schedule. During training camp, the practice sessions were at 10:15 a.m.
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“To get used to that and get our minds thinking that way, I think it’s good,” Garoppolo said.
Garoppolo is coming off an impressive performance in Houston in which he completed 10 of his first 11 throws for 136 yards and a touchdown. But his night ended on a sour note with a high throw to rookie receiver Dante Pettis that was intercepted by Texans defensive back Johnson Bademosi.
Garoppolo was sharp otherwise. He completed all seven of his passes on third and fourth down, including his touchdown toss to Trent Taylor, the 40-yard deep ball to Marquise Goodwin and a fourth-down find of fullback Kyle Juszczyk that set up Taylor’s score. Garoppolo only played two series and exited early in the second quarter for backup C.J. Beathard.
Despite Garoppolo’s strong play, Shanahan wasn’t entirely thrilled with his quarterback, of whom he has high expectations after his explosive finish 2017 led to a five-year, $137.5 million contract in February.
“I just thought we missed a couple things. I thought we got fortunate on a couple plays,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo was asked this week about the critique.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I felt similarly,” Garoppolo said. “There were just sloppy things at times. There were some good things that we took out of the game, but we hold ourselves to a high standard. We are trying to be perfect on everything and I think it’s good to have that mindset.”
The offense will try to reach that standard Saturday with a new running back. Alfred Morris is expected to make his San Francisco debut after signing Aug. 14 following injuries to the team’s top backs, Jerick McKinnon (calf) and Matt Breida (separated shoulder). The team decided against playing Morris last week after getting just two practices with the team beforehand. He spent the entire offseason unemployed.
“There’s only so many handoffs you can give people,” said Shanahan. “I think Alf is a little more ready this week, which is fair to him, and I plan on him getting more looks this week than he did last week.”
Morris could end up with a spot on the 53-man roster as an insurance policy to those injured players atop the depth chart. The team will have an extra roster spot open during the first two weeks of the regular season due to Reuben Foster’s two-game suspension. The deadline to trim the roster to 53 players is Sept. 1, two days after the exhibition finale against the Chargers.
The 49ers are also expecting cornerback Richard Sherman to make his anticipated debut. He was sidelined early in training camp with a tweaked hamstring following his recovery from an Achilles tear last November.
Sherman indicated he’s pain free and eager to get on the field with his new teammates.
“Those (injuries) are feeling great,” Sherman said. “I could have played last week. That’s what I was trying to do, and Kyle held it back. I’m not really concerned with how that’s going to respond. I’m more concerned about my game shape and making sure that I can still go every single play because I haven’t played in eight months.”