It was quite obvious 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a tough time in his first game back since sustaining a high ankle sprain in Week 2.
In the 49ers' embarrassing loss to the Miami Dolphins in Week 5, Garoppolo only completed seven of 17 passes for 77 yards, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked three times. Garoppolo’s mobility and throwing capability clearly was limited limited by his injury.
Coach Kyle Shanahan said on a video conference with reporters Wednesday he hopes to see some improvement in his QB’s health and, thus, better play on the field. If Garoppolo has a physical setback or the the matchup with the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday unfolds like the loss to the Dolphins, Shanahan will not wait to bench Garoppolo a second time.
“If he has a good week of practice and looks like he gives us the best chance to win, then I won't hesitate,” Shanahan said. “If it looks like it hurts in the game and it's prohibited him, then we'll do what we did again.”
Shanahan said he didn’t need to have any special conversations with Garoppolo after the 28-year-old played the worst half in his NFL career. They watched film and talked as usual, knowing there needs to be marked improvement going forward.
The head coach understands a high ankle sprain takes a long time to heal, with its effects potentially lasting for an entire season. Improvements could be incremental, but Shanahan does expect Garoppolo to steadily progress.
Garoppolo had a good enough week of practice to start in Week 5, but he then seemed more affected by his ankle during the game. Shanahan said the 49ers did what they could to prepare Garoppolo for live reps, but there's only so much they can do in practice.
“There's not more that we can do except tackle because we go full speed Wednesday and Thursday, a couple of periods on Friday,” Shanahan said. “We don't hold back. We do bootlegs, we do play action, we scramble, we sit in the pocket. So, we already do everything you can except tackle.”
Garoppolo's injury is one of many the 49ers have dealt with, but Shanahan and players alike aren't making excuses. How each individual improves and returns to health will influence the remainder of the season.
“It makes it hard for you to play at your best, but by no means does that mean that you can't play.” Shanahan said. “Lots of guys go out there and they have things that prohibit them from being their best, but if you can play, you still have to go out there and perform, and I'll be the judge of that watching him throughout the week.”
Nothing gets easier for Garoppolo and his offense, who have their biggest task yet in facing All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald on Sunday. Donald racked up four of the Rams' eight sacks in their win over the Washington Football Team in Week 5.
Garoppolo definitely will need the use of both of his ankles to avoid ending up on the Levi's Stadium turf.