Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo admitted Wednesday to playing this season with the uncertainty of his future never too far from his thoughts.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” Garoppolo said on a day the 49ers returned to practice to begin preparations to face the Dallas Cowboys in a first-round NFC playoff game.
“It has been in mine, really, the whole season. I knew what type of season it was, knew everything that was going on behind the scenes and what-not. It was a little different.”
When the 49ers traded up to No. 3 overall in March with the intent of selecting a quarterback to replace Garoppolo, his first question to coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager was whether he would be able to compete for the starting job.
Garoppolo entered training camp as the starter ahead of rookie Trey Lance, and he only strengthened his hold on the job.
Garoppolo remained the 49ers’ starting quarterback for every game in which he was healthy this season.
Even when Garoppolo was not fully healthy with a torn ligament in his right thumb, he was the starter for the 49ers’ critical Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams.
If the 49ers lost to the Rams in the regular-season finale, their season would have been over.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk went to Garoppolo in the locker room before the game and the two men shared a moment, as Garoppolo first described to Albert Breer of the MMQB.
Juszczyk pointed out that this would be the final regular-season game in which they would be 49ers teammates. The 49ers are expected to attempt to trade Garoppolo this offseason to open salary-cap space and clear the path for Lance to take over in 2022.
“Me and Juice had a cool moment there,” Garoppolo said. “These guys on this team, I love this team. I love the players. I love everything about it. It’s a good group to be around, a fun group. We want to keep this thing going for as long as we can now.”
Garoppolo appeared to get emotional on Wednesday as he spoke about his time with the 49ers likely coming to an end with the team's next loss (or the Super Bowl).
“You got to toe that line because you don’t want to get too emotional in those moments,” Garoppolo said. “You just got to go play football when it comes down to it. But the human side definitely comes into play. You feel it for a little bit after the game.
“And I think 24 hours after that, you have to move on quickly. And we’ve done that pretty well.”