Jimmy Garoppolo still hasn't played a down for the 49ers -- and apparently won't today, either, as he's still listed as the backup to C.J. Bethard -- but that doesn't mean he's not in their plans.
In fact, coach Kyle Shanahan this week dropped the strongest hints yet that San Francisco will slap the franchise tag on Jimmy G. this offseason and use all of 2018 to evaluate him.
"He does not have to play [this season]," Shanahan said. "It's not that we're coming to this deadline and we've got to decide our future, ours and his, for both sides. We've got six games left and we're going to have next year, also. I know you have to franchise a quarterback to keep him, but quarterbacks are expensive. And that is not that big of a deal to us."
That may work out for both sides. Garoppolo, who has a base salary of $820,077 this year, may agree to the chance to prove his worth before becoming a free agent. For all his promise, he's still only thrown 94 passes in his 3 1/2-year NFL career.
"It would be great if (Garoppolo and the 49ers could work out a long-term contract), but that’s just not the situation any of us are in," Shanahan said. "So you want to play it out. That is the good thing about the franchise tag and that’s what, to me, made it an easier decision to trade for him at the time we did . . . . "
The Patriots final injury report before their showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday includes 10 players listed as questionable and defensive lineman Alan Branch ruled out.
Branch, who hurt his knee in the Monday night loss to the Dolphins, missed three days of practice this week. Among the questionable are linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who didn't play against Miami. Tom Brady (Achilles), Brandon Cooks (hand) and Malcolm Butler (ankle) have been removed from the injury report.
Cornerback Joe Haden (fibula) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) among the Steelers listed as questionable. The full injury report:
FOXBORO — Rob Gronkowski was not focused on the past or a lengthy press conference Friday.
Speaking with the media for the first time since being handed a one-game suspension for his hit on Tre’Davious White two weeks ago, Gronkowski spoke for less than 2 1/2 minutes before declaring, “I’m out” and leaving the podium.
“I definitely learned about it, but I’m not really here right now [to talk about that],” Gronkowski said. “With the game Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers, I’m just putting my focus on them right now. Definitely learned from the mistake that I made, for sure a couple weeks ago, the last game I played in, but we’ve got a huge game this Sunday. We’ve got a huge game as a team this Sunday, so I’m just putting all my focus into the Steelers this week.”
The veteran tight end said that he was glad to be back practicing and playing, but tried to shift the conversation back to the Steelers when asked about the suspension. He declined to share whether he reached out to White after the late hit.
Gronkowski’s return will be a welcomed sight for a Patriots offense that struggled last week without him. Tom Brady played his worst game of the season, completing 24 of 43 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in New England’s loss to the Dolphins.