Jimmy Garoppolo’s return from a season-ending injury isn’t going as San Francisco 49ers fans hoped.
Days after having five straight passing attempts intercepted in practice, Garoppolo saw his first game action since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament nearly a year ago during Week 3 of the 2018 season.
It did not go well.
His first pass during a preseason game Monday against the Denver Broncos was knocked down. The next was intercepted. Then came a tipped pass and two more incompletions before Garappolo finally hooked up with running back Matt Breida on a screen pass. The net gain on that play: zero yards.
And that was Garappolo’s night. He finished with a 0.0 passer rating. Not exactly a triumphant return to the playing field, but it was a return nonetheless. After the game, Garappolo admitted to being frustrated but called the game his “first step of getting back into it.”
“It’s something I haven’t done in a year obviously, so I’ve got to knock the rust off,” Garoppolo said. “Thankfully we have a short week this week so we can bounce back quickly.”
Garoppolo is going into his sixth NFL season, but he’s only been a starter in 10 regular-season games. He spent his first three seasons as Tom Brady’s backup in New England, going 2-0 as a starter there. After being traded to the 49ers during the 2017 season, Garoppolo went 5-0 as a starter down the stretch that year and was 1-2 last season before getting injured Sept. 23 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said his quarterback simply needs more reps.
“He’s had a year off football, and before that he only played about eight games total,” Shanahan said after Monday’s game. “The more he can play, the better. I wish we could have kept him out there longer today, but you risk everyone else too, so I had to get those guys out of there.”
Broncos safety Justin Simmons attributes his unit’s success against Garoppolo to having faced the 49ers quarterback twice during joint practices leading up to the game.
“I mean, he still has it,” Simmons said. “You watched him in practice and he made a lot of nice throws, he made a lot of nice reads and he helped us big-time in our development throughout the week.”
On the positive side, Garoppolo said his knee was not a hindrance.
“I wasn’t thinking about it, so I was happy about that,” Garoppolo said. “It didn’t bother me too much.”