SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo acknowledged Friday that in the days after tearing his ACL, he spent plenty of time replaying that situation, as well as others before it, in his head before soon coming to a point of acceptance and moving on.
“I think just the overall acceptance of it initially, it was tough,” Garoppolo said. “I have never had a serious injury like this so it’s different, but we’re very positive now.”
Given a little more than a month to reflect on the play that led to the season-ending knee injury he suffered on Sept. 23, Garoppolo said his future approach in similar situations could change but only to an extent.
“I’ve always been pretty cautious, so that was kind of the freak accident of the play,” Garoppolo said, addressing reporters Friday for the first time since the injury. “I don’t know if it was just instinct or what, to cut back like that. But it is what it is. Your style of play, I think, will alter initially. But eventually, everyone keeps telling me you’ll get back to how your legs were before, just as strong if not stronger. It’s all about putting in the work right now — coming back stronger than I was before, mentally being better and just overall being better.”
Garoppolo, speaking while standing with crutches, suffered the injury against the Kansas City Chiefs when he scrambled down the sideline and opted to stay in bounds to try to gain more yards rather than stepping out of bounds. He took an awkward step near the sideline as his left leg buckled underneath him and he ran into Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson. After the game, Chiefs defensive end Justin Houston said Garoppolo was at fault for not stepping out of bounds.
Garoppolo had his surgery performed in Los Angeles, where he spent the first couple of weeks post-injury watching the Niners from a couch. He’s made progress in the time since, attending his first game in a team box last week against the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers are 0-4 since Garoppolo’s injury and 3-28 in games started by a quarterback other than him over the past three seasons. They are 6-2 with him as the starter in that span.
At some point, the Niners hope Garoppolo can be on the sideline for games or practices, though that can’t happen until he is able to protect himself from further injury.
Aside from the torn ACL, Garoppolo said there were a “couple little things” that also needed repairing but nothing else was torn. Garoppolo is now far enough removed from the surgery that the stitches have been removed, the scar has healed and he can begin doing rehab in a swimming pool.
Doctors have told Garoppolo he’s approximately another two weeks from being able to get rid of the crutches and start walking on his own again. Aside from that, there’s no timeline for any football activities, though there’s hope he will be able to begin throwing again in the spring.
“It will be a good test for sure,” Garoppolo said. “It’s a long process and so you can’t look too far ahead and start thinking about things that don’t matter right now. So, I think [it’s] just staying locked in every day and trying to get better.”
In the meantime, Garoppolo intends to do what he can to help the Niners in any way possible. When his rehab schedule allows, he’s already been attending team meetings and has made himself available in the locker room to answer any questions his teammates might have.
“I’m trying to approach it as a coach almost,” Garoppolo said. “You can do all the mental stuff the same like you did before, if not more because you have more time now. During the game, you’re not out there, so you’re seeing it all from the press box or on TV, whatever it is. So, it’s a different perspective, but I’m trying to use it to my advantage.”
Although Garoppolo will miss valuable snaps this year, he also can still learn plenty from watching, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.
“Obviously he can’t go through this season and get that experience, but there’s still a lot of experience he could get,” Shanahan said. “He can go through the game plan each week, prepare like he is playing, at least mentally, get something out of the games … Those are things he has to go through fully mentally. You’d love for him to do it both physically and mentally. One was taken away from him so he’s still got to get something out of this, and you can get a lot on the other half of it.”