Signs are pointing in the right direction for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo who aims to make his return to the field in Sunday's regular season finale. But his progress this week might not make him a shoo-in for Sunday's must-win game against the Los Angeles Rams.
After missing Week 17 with a Grade 3 thumb sprain, the quarterback resumed practice on Wednesday for the first time since suffering his injury on Dec. 23. He was a limited participant, and by the looks of it, there appear to be no setbacks in his "painful" recovery which was suggested to take several weeks and potential offseason surgery to repair.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan alluded to feeling "good" with where the veteran quarterback is at heading into the weekend. Despite Garoppolo potentially playing through pain and Trey Lance making strides following his second-career start, Shanahan opted to continue to keep his plans for who gets the start on Sunday close to his vest.
"I know where Jimmy's at today, I know where Trey's at, I know where our team's at and I feel pretty good about where we're at," Shanahan said on Friday. "Especially with Trey playing last week, we've got two guys here with some experience that our team feels good with and we'll see how it plays out."
What is concerning for the 49ers are the questions surrounding Trent Williams. The left tackle missed all three of San Francisco's practices heading into the weekend while dealing with an elbow injury suffered against the Houston Texans in Week 17.
Per the head coach, the Pro Bowl left tackle is still rehabbing and the team is "hopeful" he'll be available for Sunday.
Williams has been one of the best players in the NFL this season, and per analytics site Pro Football Focus, he is their highest overall graded player this season while also having the highest-graded season out of any position in PFF's history, which dates back to 2006.
Should he be unable to play, Shanahan acknowledged rookie tackle Jaylon Moore, who has seen reps in Williams' absences this season, and Colton McKivitz, who got the start against the Rams in Week 12 of the 2020 season, as viable options in the veteran's place.
The 49ers could see the return of two starting linebackers on Sunday. Both Dre Greenlaw (groin) and Azeez Al-Shaair (knee) were limited participants during Friday's practice, which has given Shanahan some "optimism" with the way the week has progressed.
As for the questions surrounding San Francisco's secondary, rookie corner Ambry Thomas was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Friday. He is expected to play against the Rams alongside fellow corner Emmanuel Moseley, who will make his first return to the field since being placed on Injured Reserve in Week 14 with an ankle injury.
"I thought he had a good week," Shanahan said of Moseley. "We really only go full speed on Thursday, which guys like him, Greenlaw, Azeez – guys who haven't had a chance tozdo it for a little bit – you'd like to go full speed for them all three days. But with where the team is at, you can't do that. I was excited about him on Thursday. He had a good walkthrough today, so I feel good about him being ready this week."
San Francisco is holding out hope three other defensive backs who were placed on the COVID-19 list can clear league protocols in advance of Sunday, including Dontae Johnson, K'Waun Williams and Jimmie Ward, who recorded two interceptions against Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford in the clubs' first meeting of the season.
As for the Rams, they look to have their entire squad available for the divisional showdown as head coach Sean McVay said he's not expecting anyone to be questionable for Sunday's game.
Here's a look at the final status report for the 49ers heading into the last week of the regular season: