Common sense would say Jimmy Garoppolo has zero chance of playing Sunday. Why? Well, he’ll be 17 days into a 4-6 week injury. Not just any injury, either. Garoppolo, a quarterback, is dealing with a torn ligament in his throwing thumb.
Then, you watch the videos circulating during the media session of Wednesday’s practice and think, “He’s gonna play, isn’t he?”
Jimmy Garoppolo taking part in his first limited practice since the thumb injury on Dec. 23. pic.twitter.com/mnfoaf7VhH— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoNBCS) January 5, 2022
Garoppolo spoke about how he has to be honest with himself about how his thumb feels, in light of such a big game:
“It’s definitely a fine line. It is. A lot of just thinking during the day, at night, about everything that really has gone into this whole season to get us to this point. It’s just a long season. A lot of things happen, a lot of different players play, the ups and downs and you go through all that stuff just to get an opportunity that we have this Sunday.
So, I mean, that’s all you could ask for. As far as playing, I’m going to do everything I can to be out there with the guys. It’s a big one and so whatever I can do to be out there, I’m going to be out there. But, at the same time you’ve got to be smart and think about what’s going to be best for the team to win. And so you’ve just got to be smart with all the decisions you make.”
The entire situation is fascinating, and it sums up the 49ers season: You don’t know what to expect or what’s going to happen next, and you cannot look away because of it.
Trey Lance was impressive against the Texans for a rookie making his second start. The Niners aren’t playing the Texans Sunday. Jimmy has beaten Los Angeles five times in a row. That gives Kyle Shanahan a level of comfort no matter how you feel about Garoppolo’s play on the field.
So, how would it be possible for Garoppolo to play against the Rams? My guess is the team is patient throughout the week with Jimmy while letting his thumb heal as much as possible and shoot him up Sunday before the game. This is a pain management/tolerance issue. Shanahan has made it no secret that Jimmy is the QB. If Garoppolo’s thumb is around 75%, then he plays.
It should go without saying that Shanahan believes Garoppolo gives the team the best chance to win, especially against the Rams. They’re not worried about the repercussions that come with returning from an injury too soon. Jimmy said himself on Wednesday:
“It’s football. You want to be out there. I don’t know. I’m a big believer of living in the moment and whatever happens in the future happens in the future. So, I’m trying to be out there whatever degree that is. But yeah, I’m trying to get to 100-percent. There’s just, I know I keep talking out of both sides of my mouth here, but there’s just so many variables that go into these decisions. You’re trying to be out there. I want everything in my body to be out there, but you’ve got to be smart at the same time.”
That’s the way these guys are wired. They’re willing to do any and everything to win, even if it comes at the cost of their long-term health. In Jimmy’s mind, he thinks his thumb would have all offseason to heal.
I worry that it feels like there’s a better chance of the injury worsening as the game goes on and perhaps getting progressively worse. Then what? Do you have to play Lance? Are you rotating quarterbacks based on Garoppolo’s pain threshold? You can go down a rabbit hole of scenarios.
Shanahan wants a known commodity in a must-win game, and that’s Jimmy. Based on Garoppolo’s throws and his words, it sounds like he’s going to give it a shot Sunday.