The San Francisco 49ers are headed to Denver for the team's first "Sunday Night Football" game of the 2022 season, and the team looks a lot different than it did this time last week. There are new offensive weapons available and a new quarterback under center.
Garoppolo Gets Back into the Groove
The most notable of the 49ers personnel changes involved placing quarterback Trey Lance on IR and moving veteran Jimmy Garoppolo back into the starting quarterback role for the first time since last season's NFC Championship Game. Garoppolo, who had been playing the part of scout team quarterback to start 2022, now has two full practices under his belt working in as QB1.
"You don't get the same reps when you're the backup, so your mental preparation is different," Garoppolo said. "I love running scout team. It's always fun, so I got to do that for a couple weeks, but now, it's just back to normal, I guess."
As he takes over the offense, Garoppolo is being asked to create chemistry with several different offensive weapons in a short amount of time with a Sunday primetime matchup quickly approaching. Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud III are the newest additions to the receiving corps, and Garoppolo's already noted one important attribute about the duo.
"It's been awesome," Garoppolo said. "There are some good players out there. I'm not trying to pump anyone up too much, but some of those guys can fly. Ray-Ray, not being a young guy, but just a new guy, he can move. Danny can move. There's a lot of speed out there, so the chemistry's coming. It's coming, and it'll only get better."
Head coach Kyle Shanahan puts less stock into the need to build the rapport to see immediate production on the field.
"I do think that stuff's a little overrated," Shanahan said. "If they're open, he's usually going to hit them…You mainly train the guys in the offense, and then, they get very similar and Jimmy's been used to all the other wideouts, and those guys are fitting in just fine."
No. 10's previous five seasons with the team have allowed him to pick up where he left off with the veterans.
"It's getting there," Garoppolo said jokingly when asked about his connection with tight end George Kittle.
Lance Rejoins Team Meetings
It's been less than a week since the 49ers sophomore quarterback underwent surgery to repair a couple of season-ending ankle injuries, and he's already found a way to reunite with his team. Per Garoppolo, Lance has hopped back into team meetings.
"He's already been in a couple meetings with us through zoom," Garoppolo said when asked about how Lance can train before his rehab begins. "Whatever you can do mentally. Physically, it's tough right now, but he'll get back."
Lance has received visits from teammates throughout the week, and if the doctors had cleared him, he wanted to travel with the team for "Sunday Night Football" this weekend.
"He's trying to come to the game this week," Shanahan said on Wednesday. "I don't think he'll be able to, until the swelling goes down, but he'll be back and a part of us sooner than later."
Kittle on the Mend in Week 3
Thursday marked three-straight practices for Kittle (as a limited participant) since suffering a groin injury in Week 1. Although there's been no official word as to whether the veteran tight end will make his 2022 debut in the Mile High City, all signs are pointing in that direction.
In an interview on Friday morning with KNBR's Murph and Mac show, Shanahan said he'd be "surprised" if Kittle doesn't play on Sunday.
Thursday, the tight end also spoke to reporters with the expectation of playing against the Broncos.
"I'm pretty happy," Kittle answered when asked about being able to play in Week 3. "I've just had a breath of fresh air, honestly. It's just great to be back on the football field with the boys."