SANTA CLARA — After dropping back and progressing through his reads, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tucked the ball under his arm and ran up the center of the field, picking up 15 yards before signalling a slide to bring the play to an end.
Nearly a year since tearing his ACL in Week 3 running the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback finally got to let fly in the 49ers’ first fully-padded practice of training camp.
Stepping back on this field this week with a freshly repaired knee, there was concern that Garoppolo would have trouble adjusting back to the intense speed and physical pressure that NFL football presents. Looking eager, healthy, mobile and, most importantly, rust-free, Garoppolo impressed.
“I loved what I saw today,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said. “You have pads on, so you get a little bit more time and it’s a little bit more realistic.”
Beyond the physical structure and stability of his left knee, Garoppolo was tasked with getting over the mental hurdle that came with his recovery process. Within minutes of the team’s first round of 11-on-11 drills, though, Garoppolo put those concerns to rest.
Running the play action, Garoppolo faked a handoff to running back Tevin Coleman before a wall of defensive linemen closed in. Without hesitation, Garoppolo stepped up into the pocket to avoid the rush, planting hard on the compromised knee. Stepping into a 35-yard throw, Garoppolo found an open Richie James Jr., who streaked down the left sideline for a touchdown.
“He made the right read, which is where it starts,” Shanahan said. “We had the right pocket, so he had time to see it and then you’ve got to throw it right. And he did throw it right… It was a hell of a play.”
Completing eight of the 14 passes he attempted, Garoppolo appeared to be entirely comfortable inside of the pocket, even under duress. This also held true when former Chief and new 49ers defensive end Dee Ford fell into the backfield just feet away from Garoppolo’s legs.
“The good thing is I keep my eyes downfield,” Shanahan said, as he did not see the play in real time. “I’ll see it on tape and it’ll probably bother me. When something’s wrong and you want guys to stay away and stuff and you always show it in front of here and we try to address it.”
Rookie defensive lineman Nick Bosa, who suited up in pads for the first time since mid-September, addressed this issue and expressed the difficulty of holding back in practice, especially when it comes to pulling up on the quarterback.
“I’m used to that, though. We did that in college,” he said. “I’ll dive dive out of the way and hurt myself before I touch [Garoppolo].”
Garoppolo wasn’t interested in keeping himself completely out of harm’s way, however, as he saw noreceivers open near the end of practice and ripped off his up-the-middle run.
“The seas parted and he turned it into a draw. It was an exciting play,” Shanahan said. “When it’s man coverage, no one’s looking at the quarterback. Everyone disperses, covering the receivers, who’s left in the middle? And if you have a quarterback who will run when the time presents itself, it hurts the defense.”
Despite potentially putting his leg at risk, Shanahan seemed to be pleased with Garoppolo’s overall performance on the day, including the run. His only piece of criticism: “I think he fake slid, but hopefully that would be real in the game.”
— 49ers veteran left tackle Joe Staley did not practice on Monday due to a scheduled veteran’s day off.
“The guy’s over 30, he’s always trying to get the third day in a row off when we have a block of four,” Shanahan said. “So, we did that with him today and we’ll play it by each block.”
— After dislocating his finger for the second time in two days on Sunday, San Francisco’s guard Joshua Garnett did not suit up for practice.
While he was seen on the field, he did not participate in any individual, group or team drills.
According to Shanahan, he will visit with team doctors today to determine a timeline for his return to practice.