- The San Francisco 49ers will start rookie quarterback Trey Lance this Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
- Jimmy Garoppolo is dealing with a calf injury and the team is hoping that he’ll be healthy for the October 24 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
- The Niners could also be without All-Pro tight end George Kittle who is listed as ‘doubtful’ for Sunday’s game.
Highly touted rookie quarterback Trey Lance will make his first NFL start on Sunday as his San Francisco 49ers take on the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. Head coach Kyle Shanahan made the announcement on Friday after it was determined that incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo would be unable to play due to a strained and bruised right calf. Lance will be 21 years and 154 days old on Sunday will become the fourth youngest quarterback at the time of his first start in NFL history. Lance entered last week’s game against the Seattle Seahawks after replacing Garoppolo at halftime and finished 9-of-18 for 157 yards with two touchdowns. He also ran seven times for 41 yards.
Lance was the number 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft after playing his college ball at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State. He had a very strong training camp and there was some speculation that he could emerge as the Niners’ starter though ultimately Garoppolo was able to to hold onto his starting job. Lance took reps with the starters at practice all week while Garoppolo work with trainers to deal with his injury. On Wednesday, Garoppolo told the media that even if he were able to play he would not be 100%. On Friday, head coach Shanahan indicated that Garoppolo’s injury had not improved enough to play which necessitated the move to Lance.
Shanahan said that he’s excited to see Lance make this big step in his career:
“I’m excited to see him play. I know he’s got the ability to do a lot of things but it’s going to be his first time out there for the whole game. I’m just pumped to see him play but I don’t go into it expecting anything. You try to prepare a guy as good as you can from our standpoint. I know he’s done his part preparing and when Sunday comes that’s usually the spot where you get to have fun and cut it loose and you live with the results.”
Garoppolo made the mistake of trying to come back too quickly from a high ankle sprain last season and presumably the Niners are taking a more cautious approach with his current injury. He had hoped to participate in Friday’s practice but after testing his injured shin it was ‘no go’ according to Shanahan:
“Somebody has got to protect them from themselves. (He) tried to get warmed up and get ready to go. It wasn’t reacting the right way so we’ve got to make the smarter decision.”
Garoppolo will have some extra time to recover as the Niners have a Week 6 bye. The hope now is that he’ll be ready to play in the October 24 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Garoppolo says that he’s trying to prepare Lance the best he can:
“It’s kind of the balancing act. If Trey has any questions, anything that just I’ve ran in the past or that he hasn’t ran, (I’m) helping him out any way with that.”
Lance says that he’s excited for the opportunity though he’s hoping teammate Garoppolo recovers quickly:
“I’m excited but I’m not going to make it bigger than what it is. I was hoping Jimmy would be healthy, but he’s done an awesome job and him and Nate have helped me out a ton this week and (quarterbacks coach) Rich (Scangarello) and Coach Shanahan as well. So, I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Niners’ linebacker Fred Warner says that the team’s veterans are impressed with Lance’s raw talent and overall demeanor:
“You see the raw talent, and you see the ball fly out of his hand. Impressive. Games will be different. But 11 on 11 out here is still football, and we’re seeing a young guy work and be humble and make throws like that. That’s what he needs to do.”
Lance might need to make his first start without one of his team’s most valuable weapons. Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle is listed as ‘doubtful’ after missing practice all week with an injured calf. He has been dealing with the injury for several weeks and played most of the game last week but it clearly took a toll. The hope now is that he’ll be able to rehab over the bye week and also return on October 24 against the Colts. Arizona is a -5 point home favorite against San Francisco on Sunday with the total set at 48.5.