The 49ers may have likely seen the last of Nick Mullens this season as San Francisco's backup quarterback suffered an elbow sprain during Sunday's contest against the Dallas Cowboys. During the 49ers final drive of the game, Mullens took a late hit that drew a roughing the passer penalty from Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, that sidelined the quarterback for the final two minutes of the contest.
Mullens was replaced by fellow backup C.J. Beathard, who went on to finish the game completing 5-of-7 passes for 100 yards and a Hail Mary touchdown to end the game.
According to head coach Kyle Shanahan, Mullens is experiencing swelling and the team is considering the potential of undergoing reconstruction surgery (Tommy John surgery), which will force him to miss approximately six weeks.
"We had an idea it could be serious after the game, but they had to get the MRI and look if any ligaments are torn," Shanahan said on Tuesday. "They want to let the swelling go down to know the exact severity of it and a plan for surgery and everything, but that does sound most likely. We'll see when he does it, but that's what it sounds like."
Beathard is likely to get the start for the remaining two games of the season. The team also opened the practice window for Jimmy Garoppolo on Tuesday. Garoppolo makes his return after missing six games with a high-ankle sprain – a new and worse sprain than he originally suffered in Week 2. Despite being shorthanded heading into the Week 16 contest against the Arizona Cardinals, Shanahan doesn't foresee Garoppolo making his return to the field this week.
"That's only if the doctors tell me it's 100 percent safe and he feels good, and I'd be very surprised that happens right now," Shanahan said. "He's safe to go out to practice, which we're only having walkthrough today, but it'll be fun for him to throw the ball around a little bit tomorrow. But we're going to be very safe with him this week and we'll see next week. But I'd be very surprised if that changes."
Practice squad quarterback Josh Johnson was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. Given the league's COVID-19 protocols, the team will seek available options from other practice squads as a potential backup to Beathard going into Saturday's Week 16 contest. The 49ers will also prepare for an emergency quarterback if the situation arises, whether that be running back Jerick McKinnon, who played quarterback at Georgia Southern, or fullback Kyle Juszczyk.