SANTA CLARA – Ben Garland moves into a starting role with the 49ers this week.
With his rise up the depth chart to replace center Weston Richburg, who is out for the season with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, Garland finds that his job just got a lot more simple.
Not easier, mind you, but more simple.
For the first 13 games of the regular season, Garland was one of two backup offensive linemen on the 49ers’ game-day roster. He had to be ready to enter games if he was needed at right guard, left guard or center. Plus, he also had to have a knowledge of the tackle positions, in case multiple injuries forced him to slide into one of those spots.
“It’s always tough when you’re one of the backup swing guys,” Garland said. “You got to be ready and be ready at multiple positions to go at any moment. It’s definitely a tough position to be in, but you got to have guys ready. I’m glad at the way they prepare guys here, so they are ready in those situations.”
Garland, 31, has been in the NFL for six seasons. On Sunday at Levi’s Stadium, he will make his eighth career start when he takes the field against the team for which he started each of his previous games.
He started seven games the past two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, where he spent two seasons with Kyle Shanahan, who was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta in 2015 and ’16. When Garland was available in the offseason, the 49ers reached out and signed him to a one-year contract as depth.
“I was excited,” Garland said. “I absolutely love coach Shanahan and that type of offense fits me well, so I was really excited for that opportunity.
“I do well with the speed of the outside zone and the quickness, and I know the scheme well.”
Garland was thrown into a difficult situation Sunday with the crowd noise and a playoff environment in New Orleans. After Richburg went down with his knee injury early in the third quarter, Garland executed the final 36 snaps to Jimmy Garoppolo for the 49ers’ offense in San Francisco's 48-46 victory over the Saints.
“He did a great job when he went in there,” Shanahan said. “From a center standpoint, just the snaps and everything, I think it was very good. I know we had a couple false starts, which I would love to have had back, but it’s tough in that environment.
“The noise thing, I think the hardest thing with the noise in that game was in the huddle, which is rare. We struggled a lot to hear in the huddle.”
The most difficult part for Garland, who did not step on the field for six of the Niners' first 13 games, was staying ready to enter the game at a moment's notice.
“It’s always tough, especially when you’re talking about halfway through the game, you have to stay warm and understand your assignments,” Garland said. “(The Superdome) is a tough place to play. But I think this team does a great job of developing players and having them ready for their opportunities when they come.”
Now, there is no big mystery about Garland’s role on the team for the remainder of the season.
“It’s a lot simpler for me,” he said. “I can focus on one position and no t worried left guard and right guard and if a tackle goes down, do I have to be a tackle? That’s a lot to worry about and plan for, getting all the plays at multiple positions.”