SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Although the San Francisco 49ers are expecting rookie quarterback Trey Lance to return to practice on Wednesday, veteran Jimmy Garoppolo will remain the starter Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
After Sunday night’s 30-18 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan expressed some uncertainty about who his quarterback would be against Chicago, citing the need to get health updates on Lance and, especially, Garoppolo before a decision could be made.
In the less than 24 hours that followed, Shanahan got enough information to declare Monday afternoon that Garoppolo will remain the starter with the hope that Lance can do enough in practice this week to play situationally against the Bears.
“In terms of deciding who is going at quarterback, that has to do with Jimmy’s health,” Shanahan said. “Jimmy, I wanted to see how his calf was. It’s good today and so he’ll be starting and hopefully Trey will get back into practice and have a good enough week to where he can dress and if he ends up dressing then there’s always a good chance he’ll get some plays in there.”
Although Garoppolo apparently came out of the game OK, he said afterward that he could feel the previously bruised and strained right calf as the matchup wore on, though he noted that it didn’t hinder him.
“It held up,” Garoppolo said. “Definitely felt it at times. But it sort of is what it is.”
Still, Garoppolo had what Shanahan called Monday “his worst game” of the season against the Colts, going 16-of-27 for 181 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a lost fumble.
With the Niners in the midst of a four-game losing streak, the drumbeat for Lance to get his opportunity has grown louder, at least among fans. But Shanahan was more definitive Monday when discussing his quarterback situation, making it clear that he didn’t view the Indianapolis game as a referendum on Garoppolo’s status as the starter.
“We didn’t go into that game thinking that Jimmy was one bad game away from losing his job or anything like that,” Shanahan said. “I definitely thought he could have played better but that was not a game where ‘Hey, if Jimmy has one bad game, he’s losing his job.’ We know Trey is the future here and we’re trying to do what’s best for him and for our team.”
For now, that means getting Lance’s sprained left knee back to full health. Lance suffered that injury in his first and only NFL start, an Oct. 10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. That start only happened because of the calf injury Garoppolo suffered the week before.
Lance went 15-of-29 for 192 yards with an interception against the Cardinals and rushed 16 times for 89 yards. All of those rushes took a toll, though, as Shanahan announced the day after that game that Lance would miss a week or two with the knee sprain.
Lance was a pregame inactive against the Colts with Nate Sudfeld serving as Garoppolo’s backup. This week, Shanahan expects Lance to return to practice on Wednesday, which at least opens the door for him to return to the backup role behind Garoppolo.
“Trey hasn’t practiced in two weeks since his knee injury, so when he does come back, which is hopefully Wednesday, he’s probably going to be limited as it is,” Shanahan said. “I haven’t decided that yet, we’ll have to see where he is. Odds are, when it comes to the game plan and stuff and what we’re doing, you’re not going to just start rotating quarterbacks because it’s not an open competition right now.”