There is no question that health is the lingering concern for the 49ers entering veterans minicamp, especially with star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo coming off a season-ending ACL tear a year ago.
That is the greatest question revolving around San Francisco three months from the regular season opener: Can Garoppolo return from knee surgery and become the franchise quarterback he has shown mere flashes of being. And, if there is a physical setback, is a sufficient back-up plan in place.
The 27-year-old signal-caller participated in 7-on-7’s in OTAs, but head coach Kyle Shanahan has noticed positives from battling backups C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens:
“From what I saw out there I thought he did a good job, C.J.’s had a real good camp and he’s been playing real well. So has Nick, so I’ve been excited about both of them.”
With Garoppolo’s availability for Week 1 still in question, Beathard and Mullens find themselves once again competing for the starting job. For Beathard, it’s not difficult at all to compete with Mullens knowing that it won’t hinder they’re relationship:
“Me and Nick are good friends off the field. I think our whole room is just a really good group of guys in general and we’re all friends off the field. At the end of the day, you’re just out there playing football and doing the best you can do with your reps. … I think anytime you have competition especially from guys that are in the room, good players, it makes you better. It really does.”
When striving for improvement, the assistance and pressure of competition drives players to work harder and discover both strengths and weaknesses. Beathard reinforces this idea and enjoys his opportunity.
Defensive end Nick Bosa is another name that can be added to the injury list. The No. 2 overall selection suffered a pulled hamstring during practice back in May. With all the premiere names unable to join the team in OTAs, the competition formula becomes ingratiated into the heads of the reserve players who try to fill that specific void.
Shanahan is impressed with his defensive line overall — even in the absence of Bosa — and hopes to watch the growth of his team come together once the season rolls around. With all this practice and attention on the other players, he implores the chemistry within the locker room will be stronger than ever:
“Our group on the D line has been real good. Dee Ford obviously coming out there just as good off in the beginning, it’s been tough, especially with the blocking, you don’t have pads on and things like that and they can’t get too close to the quarterback which is frustrating for them. The guys inside have done real good. … I’d say every single guy on our roster looks like they have more experience, they look in better shape, when we’re talking about the D line. I think they all look bigger, stronger and faster and I think they all look extremely comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Marquise Goodwin understands a thing or two about competition and rising to the challenges that are presented.
Goodwin, though, doesn’t necessarily focus on his competition, but on himself and what he can bring to the table with his experience and his biggest challenge:
“Myself, as usual. Not saying that being cocky. I really don’t focus on competition at all, even on the football field it’s me versus me because once you get inside your own head and you do things outside of yourself, you blew it.”
With the injuries continuing to impede on practice time, the 49ers veterans mini-camp was a chance for reserves to build the confidence and experience to make a real impact during the season. All you ask for from your players is consistency and to make the right plays. This is exactly the chance for these guys to create that narrative for themselves and make a name for them as well.
The list of injuries continues with Deebo Samuel having tweaked his groin, confirming his absence on the field today. Joining the list of injured: Kwon Alexander with a torn ACL back in October; Richard Sherman had the Achilles injury, but also suffered a hamstring injury in practice; Jerick Mckinnon is also out with a torn ACL; Raheem Mostert is still recovering from surgery from an arm injury; Garrett Celek is recovering from back surgery; Weston Richburg is recovering from surgery due to a knee/quad injury suffered back in the beginning of the 2018 season; D.J. Reed is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.
Goodwin spent some of the offseason in Africa learning about the culture and everything about it, as well as being up-close and personal with animals, him being 2 feet away from a Silverback Gorilla and climbing an inactive volcano.