SANTA CLARA -- Through most of the past 3 1/2 months, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon have been connected through rehabilitation assignments.
McKinnon sustained a torn ACL one week before the team’s season opener. Garoppolo suffered his season-ending torn ACL in Week 3 at Kansas City. The arduous rehab has been difficult, but the fact that they are going through it together has been a bright spot for both of them.
“Initially, you’re so down after the surgery and everything like that,” Garoppolo said on Wednesday. “Jet was about three weeks ahead of me, so always had some tips for me on, ‘I did this’ or ‘Try doing this’ type of thing.
“It’s encouraging being with someone, especially Jet. The guy is so positive every day. How could you not be in a good mood with him?"
The 49ers official offseason program began on Monday, and Garoppolo and McKinnon -- the two men expected to be the team’s most important offensive players last season -- are being joined by the rest of their teammates.
Garoppolo and McKinnon have clearly built chemistry during all their time together on the field, as well as in the weight room and training room.
“I get to see how hard he works and vice versa,” McKinnon said. “It’s a lot of time spent together talking through stuff, plays, picking his brain, him picking mine. Just get on that same page for the upcoming season.”
Garoppolo, who will wear a brace on his left knee this season, is likely to take part in 7-on-7 drills during organized team activities, which begins in another month. Both McKinnon and Garoppolo are expected to be cleared for full work when training camp opens in late-July.
“I don’t have a time table, but when that time comes I’ll be ready,” McKinnon said.
The 49ers open the season Sept. 8 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a source told NBC Sports Bay Area, and both players fully expect to be on the field that day. But McKinnon said he is trying not to get too far ahead of himself.
“I haven’t played in so long, you want to get to that first game so bad just to get back out there,” he said. “Every day is a work in progress, and you got to win today, especially in the rehab process like this.”
Garoppolo emphasized the importance of taking small steps and exercising patience when coming back from such a significant injury.
“It’s very good to be throwing again,” Garoppolo said. “It’s what I do. It’s encouraging. Every day gets easier and easier, able to make this throw better than I was a week ago.
“It’s small victories like that. Throughout this whole process, it’s all about small victories."