49ers

Harbaugh doesn't rule out Walker

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Harbaugh doesn't rule out Walker

Although the likelihood of Delanie Walker returning Saturday from the broken jaw he sustained in the second-to-last game of the season is slim, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh left the door open when asked about his tight end's status on Monday.

"We have made a decision on Delanie -- we're going to keep that spot open," Harbaugh said. "We got great news on that (last) Wednesday. ... He is not the normal guy, he's young and has great powers of healing. He has made tremendous progress. We'll see exactly when he is back but right now, to answer the question ... I'm not ruling him out for this weekend."

There are a number of ways to read into Harbaugh's comments. The most logical is that Walker is not yet fully ready but if the 49ers are confident Walker could return in time for the NFC Championship in a week, keeping him off injured reserve is the preferred plan.

It could also be evidence of a bit of gamesmanship between Harbaugh and Saints coach Sean Payton. There's no reason to make the game prep any easier for New Orleans, and the prospect of facing Walker does complicate matters for the visiting team.

Also, as 46 players will dress (seven must be declared inactive) there's no harm in leaving Walker on the 53-man roster. That's because as long as the 49ers have enough players to practice, they don't need to make a roster move. Any player activated from the practice squad would not be one of the 46 players to suit up on Saturday.

Bottom line: Walker is not expected to play but Harbaugh did not rule out his availability for remainder of playoffs.

What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017

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Twitter/@49ers

What they're saying: Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Bay Area sports teams and your favorite players have plenty to be thankful for this year. 

Check out how the teams and players are celebrating Thanksgiving in 2017.

Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season

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USATSI

Shanahan: Garoppolo's best football will come next season

SANTA CLARA – The two quarterbacks who finish this season with the 49ers are probably going to be the same two quarterbacks the organization carry on their 2018 roster.

So every decision coach Kyle Shanahan makes with C.J. Beathard and Jimmy Garoppolo is being made to consider what is best for those two players.

Shanahan made the expected announcement this week that Beathard will make his fifth consecutive start on Sunday when the 49ers face the Seattle Seahawks at Levi’s Stadium.

Beathard is coming off his best game as a pro. He was a major contributor to the 49ers’ first victory of the season, throwing for 288 yards, throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a score in a 31-21 victory over the New York Giants. His performance seemingly did enough to earn him another start.

Meanwhile, Garoppolo pulled up to 49ers headquarters on Oct. 31 with no prior knowledge of Shanahan’s offensive system. Even as a rookie, Beathard has five more months of experience in the 49ers’ offense than Garoppolo, a four-year professional who made just two starts during his time with the New England Patriots.

“We’ve had C.J. in there for some time,” Shanahan said. “He’s getting more used to it, and I’m getting more used to him. The players are getting more used to him around him. It’s been nice to add a few things each week for him.”

General manager John Lynch reiterated this week he considers Garoppolo the 49ers’ quarterback of the future. Garoppolo is not under contract for next season. If the 49ers are unable to work out a multi-year extension, the club would be expected to designate him as their franchise player to retain him for the 2018 season.

Garoppolo is likely to get some playing time in the final six games of the season, but the 49ers have every reason to take their time in order to give him the best chance at success. On the first three days of the bye week, Garoppolo had a chance to go back to the beginning and learn the basics of the scheme in meetings with quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello and Shanahan.

Shanahan’s scheme is complex with unique verbiage and an abundance of adjustments that are required on any given play. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan took a step backward in his first season in Shanahan's scheme. The next year, Ryan was a runaway MVP winner with a career-high 38 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions.

It took Ryan a full season of experience with Shanahan to fully grasp his responsibilities, so it is unreasonable to believe Garoppolo would be able to do much more than just function if he gets onto the field for extended action.

“Jimmy gets more and more ready each week,” Shanahan said. “Is Jimmy going to be the best he can? To me, that’s impossible. He just hasn’t been here long enough, and I think he’ll get an opportunity to be better each week.

“I don’t think we’re going to see Jimmy’s best football, to be fair to him, until next year because that’s what guys need. But C.J. did play his best football last week, which definitely, to me, made the decision easier.”