By C.J. Peterson
Special to S.F. Examiner
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Despite having to navigate the San Francisco 49ers team facility on crutches after undergoing ACL surgery on his left knee, starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is still willing and able to help his team this season.
On Friday, Garoppolo addressed the media for the first time since suffering the season-ending knee injury late in the fourth quarter of San Francisco’s 37-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Although he won’t be able to return to the field until next year, Garoppolo says he plans on have an impact on the team even if he’s not taking snaps during games.
“I’m trying to approach this as a coach almost,” Garoppolo said. “Any input that I can put in to help the guys, if they have any questions at all, I try to answer them as best as I can. Just try to be a positive reinforcement in the locker room.”
For Garoppolo, coming to grips with the fact that his first season as a bona fide NFL starter would be drastically cut short was a difficult task. After signing a five-year, $137 million contract in February, the 26-year old was only able to play 12 quarters before being carted off of the field on September 23.
“I think just the overall acceptance of it initially, it was tough,” Garoppolo said. “I have never had a serious injury like this so it’s different. It’s something that you never want to get used to.”
Over the course of the first week after the injury, Garoppolo spent time reflecting on the play that changed his season — an attempted cut on the left sideline at Arrowhead Stadium before taking a big hit from Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson out of bounds. He was quickly able to get over that hurdle, in order to mentally prepare for a long rehab.
After a successful surgery in early October, Garoppolo has spent the last several weeks in Los Angeles, where the procedure was performed. There, he sat on a couch and watched San Francisco play while he waited for the swelling and inflammation to subside.
Last week, Garoppolo made his first game-day appearance in Santa Clara, where he watched the 49ers take on the Los Angele from the coach’s box, on the eighth floor of Levi’s Stadium. For the first time, he was able to watch the team as a whole.
“It’s strange,” Garoppolo said. “I got to watch the last game from the the [coach’s] box. It’s a totally different perspective. During the game, you’re not out there so you’re seeing it all from the press box or T.V. whatever it is. I’ve never watched the defense, because I’m usually on the sidelines preparing for the next drive. So watching them was different.”
Using the knowledge and mental reps he’s been able to take over the last few weeks, Garoppolo has been able to help his teammates prepare and improve, including backup C.J. Beathard, who is now the team’s starting quarterback.
“You kind of have to pick your spots,” Garoppolo said. “It is different. You’re not out on the field putting in the time like these guys are. So whenever [Beathard] has a question or I see something that sticks out, I’ll try and do whatever I can.”
According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, Garoppolo will continue to watch the games from the coach’s box, considering his inability to walk without those pesky crunches, which Garoppolo referred to as the worst part of the recovery process.
“Just being on the crutches and stuff, if something bad happened he couldn’t protect himself,” Shanahan said. “So, we’ve got to keep him off of football areas.”
With a 9-12-month recovery time on his hands, Garoppolo has a long way to go until he can resume football activities. Despite this fact, he says he’s ready for the journey.
“I know it sounds cliche, but it’s a long process and if I keep locked in, I’ll be okay,”I want to back out there with the guys battling, preparing for the week and everything but we’ll get back there next year.”