The 49ers had a welcome sight on the sidelines at the practice facility on Wednesday.
Wearing Air Jordan turf shoes and sweats, injured quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo observed his teammates during the rainy afternoon practice. And, most notably, he did so without crutches, which he has ditched recently for the first time since having surgery in early October to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It was the first time he’s watched practice with reporters present.
Garoppolo’s rehab has moderately intensified, though he’s still behind running back Jerick McKinnon, who had roughly a month head start after suffering the same injury to his right knee a week before the season opener. The two have been going through their rehabs together.
“I’d never wish it on anybody, but it’s nice having Jet there with me,” Garoppolo said last month. “We do very similar exercises. He’s a little ahead of me right now so I’m trying to play a little catch up with him but it’s nice to have someone there with you the whole time.”
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Garoppolo, the team’s $137.5 million quarterback, doesn’t have a timeline for his return to throwing. He’s been seen watching games from the coaches box at Levi’s Stadium since returning to the team after being bedridden in Southern California following his surgery. Whether he will be allowed to watch Sunday’s road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from the sideline is unknown, though he would remain away from the action until he is mobile enough to protect himself.
Garoppolo is still figuring out ways to be involved with the mental side of the game despite being unable to play.
“I just try to go to as many meetings as I can,” he said. “Obviously, our schedules are a little different with rehab and stuff like that. Any input I can put in to help the guys, if they have any questions at all, I try to help as much as I can and just be positive reinforcement in the locker room.”
The 49ers will give Nick Mullens his third consecutive start against the Bucs on Sunday, marking his first career road start following consecutive prime-time games against the Raiders and New York Giants.
Mullens in two games has completed 70.5 percent of his throws while averaging 256 yards per game with four touchdown passes and two interceptions. His 104 quarterback rating is the best among San Francisco’s three quarterbacks to get starts this season, though his opponents, Oakland and New York, are 5-15 combined.
Goodwin returns, Garçon misses practice – The 49ers held a light practice Monday to shake the rust from the recent bye week. They did so without receivers Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garçon.
Goodwin was excused for personal reasons, while Garçon wasn’t on the field because of his recent knee injury that caused him to miss to the loss to the Giants, the team said. Both were on the practice field Wednesday, though Garçon was limited to rehab work. Goodwin was listed as a full participant.
Left tackle Joe Staley was given his standard Wednesday off and spent the afternoon in the weight room. Joshua Garnett, who recently had surgery on his left thumb, also did not practice. Linebacker Reuben Foster (hamstring) and center Weston Richburg (knee) were listed as limited participants.
The Buccaneers will be without standout tight end O.J. Howard, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday after suffering foot and ankle injuries during a recent loss to the Giants. Howard, the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft, was having a strong season with 34 catches, 565 yards and five touchdowns.