SANTA CLARA — Fans will not see Jimmy Garoppolo play in the 49ers exhibition opener Saturday night, nor will they see what is might be preparing him best for his comeback season.
After each practice at training camp, once fans disperse and coaches leave, Garoppolo refines his one-on-one connections, doing so with a cast of receivers still trying to make a name for themselves.
One day, Garoppolo was throwing sidewinders to slot receiver Trent Taylor. Another day, it was Dante Pettis running routes to the goal line. The next day, it was Deebo Samuel staying late.
San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (10) and Nick Mullens (4) practice during training camp at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
How does Garoppolo pick which ones to work with?
“The night before, I go through my notes and see what I’m trying to work on with certain guys, and what needs urgency and what doesn’t,” Garoppolo said.
These sessions last at least 30 minutes, and he termed them “tremendously” helpful.
“It’s an opportunity when the coaches aren’t there for us to talk the same language and see the defense the same way,” Garoppolo said. “It’s good so they know what I’m thinking and they know what I’m thinking.”
All quarterbacks and wide receivers stayed late a few days ago for extra red-zone work, and Garoppolo paused his reps to explain a route concept to rookie Jalen Hurd.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) takes off his helmet during training camp at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
“Anything that he can coach me up on, he’s there,” Hurd said. “We were working on a specific route, making sure that in Cover-2 I stay skinny rather than veer to one side or the other.”
The results: Hurd caught the ensuing four passes Garoppolo threw for would-be touchdowns in their on-field study session.
“Everything he can do, he does,” Hurd added.
After those extended sessions, Garoppolo heads in for daily treatment on his surgically repaired left knee, in which he tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 23.
He is slated to play in only the second and third exhibitions, Aug. 19 at Denver and Aug. 24 at Kansas City.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10) drops back to pass during training camp on the team’s practice field at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Saturday, July 27, 2019. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)
“You know I always want to be out there with the guys, but whatever the coaches and training stuff come up with, I’ve trusted their plan this far so they haven’t done me wrong yet,” Garoppolo said.
His most significant workload might come Aug. 16 and 17, when the 49ers hold joint practices at the Broncos facility, similar to what the 49ers did a year ago ahead of their exhibition in Houston.
“I prefer it,” Garoppolo said of the joint practices, “especially (because) you see different looks, new defense.
“You get to this point in camp, the defense knows our calls, we know their calls and it becomes repetitive. Whenever you get that chance (to scrimmage), the juices kick up and competition picks up. It’s exciting.”
You know what else would be? Watching football film with 49ers icons Joe Montana and Steve Young.
“I would love to,” Garoppolo said to that suggestion. “Maybe down the road. Put in a good word for me.”
Speaking of 49ers quarterbacks, Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard will ratchet up their competition for the backup role through the upcoming exhibitions.
“You’ll see who rises to the top,” said Garoppolo, the comeback QB who is firmly entrenched atop the QB depth chart.