SANTA CLARA -- Since the first time he entered the 49ers' lineup late in the 2017 season, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's status as the team's starting quarterback had never before been questioned.
Until this offseason, that is.
The 49ers looked at veteran options to replace Garoppolo. Then, they traded up in the first round to select a quarterback with the No. 3 overall pick.
Despite a strong push from rookie Trey Lance during training camp, Garoppolo will remain as the 49ers' starter to open the 2021 season Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
"Yeah, now it’s official, I guess," Garoppolo said on Wednesday.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has made it clear -- without actually saying the words -- that Garoppolo will open his fourth season as the 49ers' starter. The closest he came was during his first press conference of training camp on July 27. Shanahan said Garoppolo was the starter, but he left the door open for a change of mind.
"And if someone ever looks like they give us a better chance to win, we’ll make that decision," he said.
"Jimmy’s coming in as the one and Trey’s coming in as the two.”
On Wednesday, Shanahan explained why he would not verbally say Garoppolo is the starter.
"I wish I wasn’t being hard-headed with it, but I feel like you guys (media) are being a little hard-headed by keep asking," he said. "I feel like I’ve already answered it. So we’ll keep it as that."
Lance is the team's quarterback of the future. But the future will have to wait.
Lance was mixed in sparingly with the starters late in training camp, leading up to the exhibition finale against the Las Vegas Raiders. Garoppolo started and played 14 snaps on the first two drives, while Lance mixed in and played 10 snaps.
Garoppolo was asked when he knew he would be the starter for Week 1.
"For a while," he answered. "I told you guys a long time ago I had a pretty good feeling about it, kind of joked about it. But, yeah, I always knew where I stood and everything."
But Lance sustained an injury to a finger on his throwing hand -- a chipped bone -- that sidelined him for more than a week. Lance was handling a football and throwing passes Wednesday at practice for the first time since the injury.
Garoppolo will start against the Lions, but Lance -- if healthy -- could see action as the 49ers look to find ways to utilize his skills as a passer and runner. If Lance is not deemed ready to play, the 49ers could elevate Nate Sudfeld from the practice squad to serve as the backup.
Lance played 16 games for North Dakota State as a redshirt freshman in 2019. He was limited to just one game in the fall season of 2020, as NDSU pushed their season to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shanahan said he will be looking for ways to get Lance on the field this season.
"I think what has been tough on Trey is he didn't get to play football all last year. So regardless of what happens, I'm always trying to make sure that Trey doesn't go another year without playing football," Shanahan said this week. "We're going to make sure that we do what's best for him. Getting him reps on the practice field, hopefully, in games too and we'll see how this all pans out."