San Francisco 49ers

Jimmy Garoppolo, making his ACL comeback, ‘threading it’ at 49ers OTAs

49ers’ most notable moves of the offseason

Chris Biderman breaks down the 49ers’ most notable moves of the NFL offseason
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Chris Biderman breaks down the 49ers’ most notable moves of the NFL offseason

Richard Sherman thought he had an opportunity to make a play.

The All-Pro cornerback was playing zone defense on his customary left side of the field. New 49ers receiver Jordan Matthews was running a dig route over the middle and Sherman thought he could leave his zone to break the pass up. But it was perfectly thrown and went right by his fingertip for a completion during Tuesday’s seven-on-seven drills.

“If he throws it anywhere else, I can take it,” Sherman said after the OTA practice. “And it was just a great ball and a confident throw from him.”

The throw, of course, was made by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who must have shaken off any rust from his ACL rehab during Monday’s practice that was closed to reporters. Garoppolo looked sharp during drills Tuesday after missing the final 13 games of last season with the devastating knee injury.

“Jim was threading it today,” said Sherman, who approached Garoppolo between drills to talk smack and let him know how close he was to making the interception.

“He got the ball right where he wanted to. Obviously he’s been limited in the things he can do. Today, he had a lot of reps and he looked really good. He was putting the ball in some risky spots – where it seem risky,” Sherman said. “(He’s making) real confident throws. He completed every single one of them. It just shows where he’s at in his progress and what he’s able to do and how hard he’s been working.”

Said Garoppolo: “It was cool. Even if it’s just a little trash talking between series or whatever it is, it’s a nice feeling to be back out there, get in the huddle with guys and look them in the eyes. It’s the little things like that.”

Garoppolo’s progress seems encouraging, though the franchise signal-caller won’t be cleared for 11-on-11 drills until training camp in late July. The play Sherman spoke of came during seven-on-sevens, where Garoppolo doesn’t have to worry about the pass rush or offensive linemen being pushed back into him.

Garoppolo was wearing a lightweight titanium brace on his left knee that doesn’t appear to be hindering his movement. He’s expected to wear it throughout the coming season. He sprayed the ball Tuesday to an array of pass catchers, including Matthews and second-round pick Deebo Samuel, throughout his limited reps.

“We’re only in the second day, obviously not doing the team stuff yet,” said Garoppolo. “The training staff and coaches have put together a nice plan and just getting the reps of seven-on-seven and seeing the defense, safeties, things like that. It’s good to be back out there and being able to see all that stuff again.

Even being in the huddle, the seven-on-seven huddle, looking guys in the eye, a lot of funny things happen in those huddles. Someone will say something, there’s that little bit of trash talking so, it’s those little things. I was there during the season, but it just didn’t feel the same.”

Garoppolo said his knee no longer requires extensive treatment before or after practices, which is a positive sign in his recovery. His main focus during these pad-less sessions is getting back in the swing of running the offense and taking back the reins after not playing since the injury Sept. 23 in Kansas City.

The quarterback needs to regain confidence in his movements in the pocket, which can be one of the hardest parts of playing quarterback. Key to Garoppolo’s success when he first joined the 49ers in 2017 was his ability to get the ball out of his hands in the face of pressure, which will be put the test coming off the injury to his front leg.

“We have plenty of drills and things like that that we do,” Garoppolo said. “There’s not so much in planning it. It’s just reacting. I don’t know if I’m wording that right, but it’s coming along.”

Garoppolo’s also faced with the challenge of feeling good physically, but not overextending himself early in the process. He remains eager to get back, but has worked closely with the training staff to ensure he doesn’t suffer a setback before the start of the regular season.

“I think he’s handling it as well as he can,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting used to it. It’s just a long process when you recover from an ACL and he gets as much work as he can get in. I know he’d love to be out there for every rep, but he knows that he can’t, so he’s trying to make the most of his seven-on-seven and do as much work in every other aspect as he can.”

Added Garoppolo: “They’ll reel me back in from time to time. I want to go all the time, just get as many reps as I can as fast as I can. It’s just catch up at this time. They do a good job of holding me back, but at times we have our arguments.”

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