It’s that time of year. Players are back in Santa Clara for their physicals and reintroductions before the grind returns in earnest.
After months of rampant speculation, Kyle Shanahan set the tone with a decisive statement. Trey Lance is the starting quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo’s time — though it may linger a while longer — is over.
Hello Trey, au revoir, Jim
It was a nice shift from the will-they-won’t-they undercurrent of last season when Shanahan falsely declared that there was no quarterback competition and left the door open for Lance to take the starting job amidst the 49ers’ early spiral.
There will be none of that this year. At least, that is Shanahan’s goal. He reaffirmed the 49ers’ decision to draft Lance and move on from Garoppolo.
“I can’t tell you how appreciative I have been of Jimmy and him being here. So appreciative of what he did for us last year,” Shanahan said. “I think Jimmy and we knew what move we made the year before on that. Jimmy did a hell of a job from that camp and winning that job and taking us real close to the Super Bowl. But we have moved on to Trey.”
So, what exactly does that mean for Garoppolo?
John Lynch said Garoppolo would undergo his physical later this afternoon, but he and Shanahan had a “great” conversation with him Tuesday morning and feel positive about his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery which put the kibosh on trade talks.
He is cleared to play, but is in the process of ramping up. Shanahan said he will likely throw off to the side as he rehabs and the 49ers look to deal him, but he won’t practice with the team.
The duo of Lynch and Shanahan reaffirmed multiple times that they are instep with Garoppolo and his representatives about his status, Lance’s status as the starter, and the desire to get a trade done. As of yet, Lynch said, after a pause, he has not asked for his release.
There was still that stubborn affirmation, though, that the 49ers won’t just cut Garoppolo, who Shanahan termed “one of the better quarterbacks in the league.”
San Francisco’s brass says they’ll still working all the angles, maneuvering to get him moved somewhere, “hopefully sooner than later,” Shanahan said.
But even if that situation lingers, Shanahan says he won’t be uncomfortable.
“I’m pretty comfortable because of how clear I just was with my words,” Shanahan said. “This is Trey’s team. And that’s nothing against Jimmy. We made that decision a year ago. We’re going with that. We’re not gonna mess around with that anymore. And I don’t think we really haven’t messed around with that much, but once we made that decision we did and Jimmy understands fully. That’s what makes it not awkward…
“Jimmy knows we’re going with Trey, Trey knows we’re going with Trey, and our team does.”
Lance’s development, and talk of “arm fatigue”
This will hopefully be the last time the phrase “arm fatigue” is mentioned. It won’t be, but we can dream.
There were reports this offseason that Lance had struggled with his arm getting tired as a rookie, drubbed with a tenor of it being an issue on the 49ers’ radar.
Shanahan poured cold water on that notion, saying it’s not a recurring issue, and that it doesn’t make sense to report something that every quarterback deals with.
“I think it happened one day in training camp last year,” Shanahan said. “But that would be accurate with every quarterback I’ve ever coached. So yeah, guys get arm fatigue at times. Trey’s arm was great throughout all of OTAs, it’s been great talking to him through the whole summer and I expect him to be the best it’s looked tomorrow when we practice.”
There was plenty of discussion about the future with Lance, but the most noticeable thing was that Shanahan was palpably excited.
He seems energized by the prospect of working with the ball of clay that he drafted. Lance, at this point, is an open-ended question with limitless potential. Major downsides exist, too, but after six years at the helm, Shanahan finally has a quarterback he can work with from the ground up.
His answer on how he’ll coach Lance on off-schedule plays was as telling as anything else he said on Tuesday.
To summarize, Shanahan acknowledged that there will be moments when he’s frustrated by Lance not making the correct decision, but that he’s so talented, he might still make a positive play out of a wrong decision.
It’s up to Shanahan to coach him and Lance to learn to develop better tendencies, both of which will improve, Shanahan said, over time.
The answer was an overarching acknowledgment of the core issue Shanahan has faced. He’s been an excellent coach, but his quarterback did not have the talent to bail them out of most situations. Lance does, and Shanahan sounds open to letting that talent rein free when the moment calls for it.
Deebo’s contract situation
It’s not going to happen or today or tomorrow, or probably the next day after that, but John Lynch sounded cautiously optimistic that the 49ers would be able to sign their star receiver to what will be a massive extension.
“Substantive talks” was the term used.
“We’ve had really productive and substantive talks,” Lynch said. “I don’t want to get everyone all excited that something’s imminent because we’re not there yet. But I’m really hopeful that in the near future, we’ll be able to announce something that’s exciting for everyone involved. Deebo’s here today and we’re excited about moving forward with him as part of this team.”
Lynch said the brass is “focused on getting something done” and that Samuel was present on Tuesday. He could be fined and lose a year of service time if he didn’t show up, but the relationship certainly didn’t sound like it’s been tempestuous.
While there’s not a concrete deadline, Lynch noted that there’s a natural sense of deadlines that crop up in terms of pushing these deals through.
Shanahan also mentioned, as vaguely as possible, that he and Samuel discussed how he’d be used this upcoming season.
“Deebo and I had a real good discussion and we’re on the exact same page on it,” Shanahan said.
So, nothing’s imminent with Samuel, but there is a concerted effort to get an extension done.
Injuries and other notes
- Here’s your not-available roundup:
- DT Kalia Davis: Will start on the NFI (non-football injury) list as he works back from an ACL tear suffered at UCF. It’s the same as the PUP (physically unable to perform) list.
- TE Charlie Woerner: Will start on PUP. Had core muscle surgery this offseason that he’s recovering from.
- CB Jason Verrett: Will start on PUP as he rehabs back from a torn ACL.
- Mike McGlinchey (quad), Javon Kinlaw (knee) and Azeez Al-Shaair (knee, shoulder) are all cleared to practice, but the 49ers are “gonna take it easy with them.”
- Dee Ford’s time with the 49ers is about to end. He is not with the team. Lynch said, not so cryptically, that “you guys will see a transaction” regarding him in the coming days.
- There will be an earnest competition at center. Lynch said the team is “absolutely” monitoring veteran centers *coughs in J.C. Tretter* but Shanahan pointed towards an intriguing room of “musical chairs.” Daniel Brunskill, Jake Brendel, and rookies like Jason Poe and Dohnovan West will have opportunities at guard and center.
- Trey Sermon has impressed Shanahan with his offseason work. Shanahan said “he has done everything he can,” based on what he saw from him in OTAs. “He’s as yoked up as he can be, he’s as in shape as he could be and you could tell the guy learned from his rookie year and wants to do a lot more.”
- Lynch confirmed the team signed 27-year-old defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche, an athletic, but underperforming defensive lineman. He was a former Cardinals first-round pick in 2016 who last played with the Seahawks. He has appeared in 38 games (six starts) and registered 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.