Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was ruled out for a seventh straight game Friday, but he was spotted leaving the practice field, where he was cleared to return this week for conditioning and “to walk a bit,” Shanahan said.
Garoppolo wore an orthopedic boot on that left foot as he left the locker room after practice. He did not go on the injured-reserve list after fracturing his foot Dec. 4, and the 49ers have hoped he could recover in time to serve as Brock Purdy’s backup for potentially the NFC Championship Game next weekend or the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, if they advance.
So, is the NFC Championship Game still a target for a Garoppolo comeback?
“I’d be surprised, but it depends on how this whole weekend goes. But it’s an outside chance,” Shanahan said.
As for potential Super Bowl availability, Shanahan said he thinks there would be “a better chance” then, without vowing a spot in that Feb. 12 championship game.
Purdy has seized control of the 49ers’ starting role, winning all seven games since Garoppolo’s first-series exit against Miami. That has convinced the 49ers’ brass that Purdy will be their starter entering next season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver, citing “two people with knowledge of the organization’s plan.”
The 49ers have not publicly declared Purdy the starter for next season, nor would they amid a playoff run, but the rookie phenom has done nothing to make anyone think otherwise. Reflecting on Purdy’s relief role against Miami and his first start against Tampa Bay, Shanahan said Friday: “We all quickly forgot he was a rookie.”
“I felt that during the Miami game,” Shanahan added. “It was a game with a lot at stake, we were playing a real good team, he came in real early and we were under a lot of duress, the way their defense was playing. He didn’t play at all like a rookie that game.
“I remember getting home that night, and all of us being down about losing Jimmy, but we got in there with Brock, and as I was going to bed, it kind of hit me that, ‘He didn’t play like a third-stringer today.’ ”
Lance, meanwhile, is recovering from Dec. 30, follow-up surgery on his right ankle and is expected to participate in offseason workouts. He was walking in the locker room Friday with his right foot is an orthopedic boot.
Oakland native Josh Johnson has served as Purdy’s backup for the past six games, having entered to play the final 11 snaps of both their wins against Tampa Bay and Arizona.
Garoppolo has not been available for comment since his injury. Upon reclaiming his job after Trey Lance’s ankle fracture in the Sept. 18 home opener, Garoppolo went 7-3 in the starting role, including the first five wins of the current 11-game win streak.
He is 42-19 all-time as the 49ers’ starter, including 2-1 efforts in their 2019 and ’21 teams’ playoff runs. The 49ers reworked Garoppolo’s deal before the season to not only reduce his base salary to $6.5 million in an incentive-laden contract but also assure him they would not franchise tag him and thus let him test free agency, which opens March 13.
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