One of biggest drawbacks of playing out the 2020 NFL season is that fans will likely not be a factor in their home stadiums. Most clubs have already ruled out the possibility of having spectators, while others have said they will consider limited capacity depending on what is happening with the pandemic.
We don’t know yet what will happen at Levi’s Stadium for San Francisco 49ers home games, but the players are preparing to take the field without any fans in attendance.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo spoke with the media, and was asked what his thoughts were on playing in empty stadiums:
“It will be different. No silent count will be needed on the road. So, that’s a luxury that I’m pretty excited about that one. It’ll be different. We’re going to have to, you’ll have to bring your own juice. I’ll tell you with our team, that’s one thing that we don’t have a problem with though. It’s bringing the energy, we bring it every day in practice and you see it out there during training camp already. The first walk through basically felt like full speed. So, it’s just one of those things I keep saying it, but we’re just going to have to adapt to it and change on the fly, I guess. And I’m sure there’ll be some hiccups along the way, but the better we can adapt and the more quickly we can adapt the better.”
One big difference I noticed between the 49ers going into 2020 is the mentality of the players. Throughout the offseason, the players who have spoken publicly have all heralded the team’s mindset, even amidst a pandemic. Last year, the talk was about being confident, and giving them a chance to get in the playoffs. Now, it seems like everyone is in on the championship-or-bust expectations.
Garoppolo is looking to finish the job in 2020. After coming agonizingly close to a Super Bowl title in his first full-year as a starter, the 28-year-old is excited to not be focused on rehabbing his knee injury, like he was prior to the 2019 season.
“Well, my knee definitely, it’s night and day compared to where I was last year, this time. This time last year, it was more so getting back into being in a live pocket, having live bullets flying around me and getting used to that,” Garoppolo said. “So, we’re past that. I haven’t really thought about it in a long time. But, as far as the mobility and things like that, it’s whatever [head coach] Kyle [Shanahan] calls for. I think my knee’s in a good position to, it’s able to do whatever it needs to do at this point.”
The Niners went 13-3 with Jimmy G at the helm last year. He completed 69.1% of his pass attempts for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. If he can cut down the turnovers, and improve his accuracy a bit, he should be able to improve upon those numbers in 2020. He knows how important it to be on-target, especially with the speed the 49ers possess.
“A thing that I always take pride in is being an accurate quarterback, more accurate you are, the more yards after catch your guys could go get it for you,” Garoppolo said. “In our offense it’s putting the ball in the right spot, putting it in the right timing of the play and it’s little things like that, that go a long way in our offense. I think, I was pretty happy with everything, how it went, and like I said, we just want the last game of the season to turn out a little differently.”
For a QB with a 21-5 record as a starter, it’s insane to see how many critics still question his abilities. He needs to improve certain aspects of his game, but how many quarterbacks are truly refined going into their second year as a starter? He’s still not a top 10 NFL QB, but that could very well change over the next couple of seasons.
Asked about the changes the 49ers made with some of their offensive personnel this offseasons, Garoppolo says that having this much firepower will be a good thing.
“It’s going to be a competitive camp and going into the season we’ll see who kind of separates themselves from the crowd,” he said. “I think whenever you can get more weapons like that, the more competition you add to different position groups and things like that, it only adds to better play.”
Garoppolo was also asked how he felt about the rumors that San Francisco was actively pursuing former teammate Tom Brady this offseason, to which he said he, “wasn’t worried.” He also mentioned how excited he is to work with running back Jerick McKinnon, and that the offensive line with new additions Trent Williams, and Tom Compton is a “great group.”
Hopefully, Garoppolo can lead the Niners to that elusive sixth Super Bowl title. That will shut up the critics.