Jimmy Garoppolo's availability for the 49ers Week 17 matchup against the Houston Texans is uncertain as he has officially been listed as "doubtful" heading into the weekend. The quarterback sustained a Grade 3 sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right thumb – an injury that hampered his performance in the loss to the Tennessee Titans. Garoppolo admitted that, while playing through adrenaline, he had to adjust his throwing style to compensate for the injury.
While missing all three of the week's practices leading up to Sunday, the 49ers are still holding out hope that the veteran quarterback can return to the field against the Texans. According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers held the quarterback from throwing this week and will assess him on Saturday to maximize his chances of being able to play.
"We're told that each day that we can push (having Garoppolo throw) one more, it gives (his thumb) a better chance for it to stay," Shanahan explained. "So, we're trying to hold him throwing until tomorrow, possibly Sunday."
Despite Garoppolo noting his confidence in his ability to play, rookie quarterback Trey Lance has seen all of the week's first-team reps in case the veteran is unable to suit up. Shanahan mentioned the rookie is coming off of a "real good week" while getting his first look at starting reps since Week 5, which should be beneficial for the oft-scout team quarterback to get a feel for running the offense should his number be called on Sunday.
"Anytime you add in a rookie, you want to do everything you can to help the guy out to make it easier," Shanahan said of the team's confidence in Lance. "And to me, guys are locked in and they're helping him out in walkthroughs and stuff like that. But besides that, I don't think anyone thinks that they have to do anything extra. I think guys believe in Trey. I think guys expect him to go out there and play well.
"They got to see him Arizona week. They got to see him this week in terms of how he handles himself. And I think it's even stronger this week. He knows how to handle the part. He knows how to get in the huddle – takes command. His preparation is very impressive and I think that gives the guys a lot of confidence in him."
Added Lance: "I don't know if Jimmy's going to be able to go or not on Sunday, but for me to be able to get those reps was huge. Whether I go on Sunday or not, I think I gained a lot from it."
Signs are pointing to the potential return of running back Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell missed three-straight games while working through a knee injury. Per Shanahan, the running back is coming off of one of his strongest outings at practice as he saw an uptick in reps this week. His availability will continue to be assessed by the 49ers heading into Sunday.
"Today he didn't feel worse, which was the key," Shanahan said. "And he was able to get some (reps) today. Hopefully that will continue all the way up to Sunday. We'll play Elijah as much as he can handle. So that's about watching him, watching how his legs work, communicating with him – which is really what (49ers running backs coach) Bobby Turner does throughout the game. And when he's tired, Bobby doesn't hesitate. He puts Jeff Wilson Jr. in there. We have a number of guys we can put in there."
It's worth noting, running back Trey Sermon (ankle) returned to practice this week after spending the last three weeks on Injured Reserve. The team has the option to promote him to the active roster on Saturday as added relief for Mitchell, Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty against Houston.
Nose tackle D.J. Jones (ankle) was a full participant during Friday's practice and is expected to play.
Here's a look at the final injury report heading into #HOUvsSF:
- RB Elijah Mitchell
- QB Deshaun Watson
- WR Chris Conley
- S A.J. Moore
- CB Jimmy Moreland