KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The 49ers don't have much time to feel sorry for themselves after determining Sunday that quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has a 24-hour rule, in which all the emotions from a regular-season game are brushed aside and the team quickly moves on to preparing for the next opponent.
“Win or lose, you have 24 hours to feel some way about it,” fullback Kyle Juszczyk said Sunday in the locker room following the 49ers’ 38-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“But we have to regroup. We still have 13 games to go -- at least 13 games. So there’s a lot of football to play.”
But this was no ordinary loss. The team lost its unquestioned leader and a player the organization signed to the richest contract in club history with the belief he eventually could lead the 49ers to a championship.
So, what will the next 24 hours be like after learning that Garoppolo will not be available until the start of the 2019 season and before shifting all attention to facing the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday?
“It’s not going to be fun,” Juszczyk admitted.
Garoppolo sustained the expected torn ACL in his left knee on a non-contact play, as he planted to remain inbounds late in the game and tried to rally the 49ers from a two-touchdown deficit. On a third-and-goal from the 20, Garoppolo scrambled for 13 yards and attempted to cut back inside to gain additional yardage when his knee buckled even before Chiefs defensive back Steven Nelson unloaded a big hit.
Garoppolo stayed down after the hit, and many teammates said they initially believed he had sustained a concussion. But after the first stability tests, it was clear Garoppolo knew it was the worst-case scenario with his knee. He was carted to the 49ers’ locker room, visibly upset with the news he heard from the team’s medical staff.
Many of Garoppolo's teammates checked on him afterward and gave him well-wishes as he sat on a trainer’s table.
“I told him I would be praying for him and that I love him,” 49ers backup quarterback C.J. Beathard said. “He told me to lead these guys.”
Linebacker Reuben Foster also expressed his support when he briefly visited with Garoppolo.
“I just see it in his face,” Foster said of Garoppolo’s dejection. “I was like, ‘Hey, brother, we got you. You just sit down and heal. We’re going to fight for you, no matter what.’ ”
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The 49ers finished last season on a five-game winning streak after Garoppolo took over as their starting quarterback. In his short time with the team last season after the trade from the Patriots for a second-round draft pick, Garoppolo convinced 49ers management that he was a franchise quarterback.
The 49ers signed Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million contract. And, now, the 49ers must find a way to carry on without any contributions from the player who gave the team hope that it could compete for a playoff spot.
“It’s going to be a bummer with Jimmy,” 49ers left tackle Joe Staley said.
Shanahan said the team must not change its mental approach in light of Garoppolo's devastating injury.
"You show up to work tomorrow, you study the heck out of this film on the plane," Shanahan said. "We’re hard on ourselves. We’ll show up tomorrow. We’ll all be men about it. We’ll grade the tape hard. See what we did good, what we did bad.
"And when we show up Wednesday, it’s time to go. It’s part of the NFL season. That’s what you have to do. We all feel for Jimmy, there’s no doubt about it. We dealt with this with our running back (Jerick McKinnon) two days before the season started, too. So this is part of the NFL. We’re not the first team this has happened to, so it's next guy up."
The loss of Garoppolo was felt on both sides of the ball. Foster said Garoppolo was a leader for even the players on defense.
“That’s a heart-drop, seeing an offensive leader like that, a team leader,” Foster said. “He’s just like a defensive leader, too. We got to swallow hard and go into the next phase.
Said veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell: “We got to have the next-man-up mentality. It’s a long season, and obviously he’s a leader. He’s a guy we look to as a leader. It’s one of those things, but you can’t be too stressed out about it.”
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