© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon expected to spearhead one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses in 2018. Instead, they found themselves trudging through the same grueling process of rehabbing a torn ACL alongside one another, a game of detail and patience.
McKinnon tore his ACL during a practice about one week before the 2018 season started. Garoppolo tore his ACL during a collision in the fourth quarter of Week 3 at Kansas City. Both players’ rehabs have gone smoothly and without setbacks.
General manager John Lynch, speaking to reporters in Mobile, Alabama Thursday as the 49ers coaching staff prepares to coach the South squad in the Senior Bowl, said the team expects Garoppolo to be ready by the start of training camp in late July. He may be cleared by the beginning of OTAs in late May.
McKinnon, one of the 49ers’ marquee signings last offseason, is also expected to be full go by the time training camp rolls around. McKinnon, according to Lynch, is six weeks ahead of his original timetable.
Garoppolo and McKinnon have embraced the rehabilitation process together, showering each other in encouragement and working alongside one another — now in the form of football activities. Last week, Lynch spotted Garoppolo throwing to McKinnon, a welcome sight last seen during the 2018 preseason.
“(Garoppolo) is doing really well. You follow with the trainers, and you’re in constant communication with the doctors,” Lynch told CBS Sports earlier this week. “But the best news I can tell you is last week I’m looking outside my office window and there he is down there throwing the football on the field. That was music to my ears. It was a beautiful thing.”
Two more 49ers players face similar recovery timetables.
After hurting his left knee in Week 4, center Weston Richburg fought through the injury for the remainder of the season. He recently underwent knee and quadriceps surgeries that are scheduled to sideline him until the start of 2019 training camp.
Richburg, who signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal last March, and McKinnon were two of the team’s foundational signings last offseason. But Richburg was sporadic throughout the 2018 season, largely due to playing through multiple injuries that never really went away.
“I think it affected his play late in the year,” Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He was having trouble anchoring. We decided to go in there and get the thing cleaned up. It’s going to be an extensive rehab. He’ll be right up until training camp.”
Second-year defensive back D.J. Reed faces a similar timetable as Richburg. Reed is expected to have surgery Friday to repair a torn labrum. He, too, will likely miss OTAs but is expected to return by the start of training camp. Reed, the team’s fifth-round draft pick in 2018, will compete at the free safety and nickel corner spots.
All things considered, the collective prognosis is positive, with all four aforementioned players scheduled to partake in a full training camp. Considering the nightmarish images that defined the start of the 2018 season, the ensuing events pertaining to Garoppolo’s and McKinnon’s recoveries have gone as positively as the coaching staff could have hoped. The process has fostered some healthy competition.
“They’re pushing each other,” Lynch told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Jimmy is trying to catch him, and Jet is trying to separate. But they’re really relying on each other, so that’s a positive.”