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49ers Notebook: Quarterback non-competition, Trey Lance’s contract and injury roundup

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In one day, for all intents and purposes, the 49ers’ season begins. Training camp opens on Wednesday, when reporters and fans will be welcomed back to the practice fields behind Levi’s Stadium to gawk and take a gander at San Francisco’s day one roster, which should feature their new, but still yet-unsigned rookie quarterback, Trey Lance.

What quarterback competition?

Well, that sorts that. Apparently there’s no quarterback competition, folks. We can just pack it up. Jimmy’s the guy, apparently.

Kyle Shanahan said Monday, alongside John Lynch, and while in front of beat reporters for the first time since the NFL Combine in February of 2020, that in fact, there is no quarterback competition.

“[Jimmy is] our best quarterback in the building right now,” Shanahan said, naming him the the starter. “There’s no open competition right now. Jimmy is coming in as the one and Trey is coming in as the two.”

But, like with any early-season presser, or really any presser regarding quarterbacks and Kyle Shanahan — who has improved his skills of deception substantially in recent years — you can’t take it at face value.

Yes, Garoppolo, clearly is the starter for now. It’s not even Day 1 of training camp, he knows the offense and as Shanahan pointed out earnestly and as anyone watching can attest to, Garoppolo looked fantastic in OTAs. That might be meaningful or completely devoid of significance in the long run, but for now, as expected, he’s the guy.

Shanahan also laid out a caveat.

“If someone ever looks like they’ll give us a better chance to win, we’ll make that decision then.”

Nothing has changed, but the 49ers are putting it out there explicitly, which is sort of necessary to establish a hierarchy. At some point, this is Lance’s team. But that day is not today.

Trey Lance’s contract

As of writing, Trey Lance is one of three rookies, along with Jets quarterback Zach Wilson and Los Angeles Chargers tackle Rashawn Slater, who have yet to sign their rookie deals.

What’s the holdup?

Because first-round rookie contracts are already decided on a sliding scale, there’s no negotiating compensation amounts, but there is always a push and pull in terms of offset language. Offset language dictates what happens if a player is cut within the first four years of their deal, which always seems like a funny thing to haggle about if you’re building around someone you believe to be your franchise quarterback.

All that money is fully guaranteed, but if there’s no offset language and a player is cut, they can effectively double dip when they sign with another team. If they’re due $10 million and get cut, but sign with another team who pays them $3 million, the original team would only have to pay them $7 million, if they used offset language. Without offset language, the original team would have to pay the full $10 million and that player would also earn the new $3 million from the other team.

That is what’s likely going on with Lance, but Lynch said he doesn’t expect it will be an issue. He said he’s hopeful and expectant that Lance signs and is ready to go for Day 1 of training camp.

“We are sure hopeful that he does,” Lynch said. “Sometimes with these things, I just look at our history since we’ve been here; never had a holdout. It’s always down to the wire. It’s important that he is here. I think for any rookie, for every player, every rep counts, every meeting counts, but particularly at that position, so we’re hopeful and expecting that Trey will be here.”

Injury roundup: Maybe don’t bet the house on Dee Ford

A few days ago, it sounded like Fred Warner, fresh off his newly-minted $95 million deal, was entering the reporting business. Asked about Dee Ford on KNBR, he made it sound like Ford was 100 percent.

“Dee, he’s great,” Warner said. “He looks great, he’s back. I’ve seen him plenty and he’s been working his tail off. I know the type of player that he is and the fact that he’s back healthy is going to give us a huge advantage. So I’m really excited to see him back.”

And hey, maybe Ford does come back this season and looks like the player he once was. But from Lynch’s update, that assessment sounds a little premature. Lynch said that Ford, Nick Bosa and Jalen Hurd, who all sustained season-ending injuries last season, will avoid the physically unable to perform list and will start training camp with individual drills.

Lynch said that Ford did not need an additional procedure last year for his back injury, but that the 49ers remain cautious in their approach with him.

“That’s been the challenge with him is that it’s been sort of a moving target,” Lynch said. “We feel like we have a good handle on it now — he does — but now I think it’s a cautiously optimistic approach, wait and see. You always have to advance him along and see how he does. We’re hopeful but cautious; those things are touchy. We’re cautiously optimistic that he tries to advance and reach new goals.”

That sounds like a much fairer assessment of a nebulous back injury for a man who underwent a lumbar discectomy to repair discs in his back, and who missed all of last season. There have been questions about whether Ford would retire, so any expectation that he’d immediately be at or close to 100 percent seems premature.

While Ford, Bosa and Hurd won’t start training camp on the PUP list, Tarvarius Moore (torn Achilles), Jeff Wilson Jr. (torn meniscus) and possibly Jaquiski Tartt (toe), depending on how his physical goes, will go on the PUP list. Lynch seemed to indicate that Moore’s season may not be over — even citing this Russian gymnast who recovered from a torn Achilles in three months to win a gold medal — as a reason to be optimistic that Moore could potentially return.

Other notes: Garoppolo’s past ankle injury, Ward’s takeaway goal, RGIII-Lance comparison

  • Garoppolo’s ankle injury sounded severe: Trent Williams revealed Monday that Jimmy Garoppolo’s ankle injury was nearly devastating and that he, and other players in the locker room gained a ton of respect for Garoppolo for fighting through a brutal ankle injury.

“Jimmy has always been a fierce competitor, all watch him play with, you know a lot of people, His ankle was damn near an inch away from snapping,” Williams said. “So just watching him even fight through and try to play; a guy who has accomplished so much… he didn’t have to press forward like he tried to do. And guys respect that.”

  • Jimmie Ward’s takeaway goal: Ward might just be the funniest player on the team, and is at least the most self-deprecating with his honesty. He was asked, in sort of a running joke about how he doesn’t create turnovers, if he has a goal for this season. Ward answered that he’s hoping to intercept four or five passes this year but that it doesn’t always pan out that way:

“I have a goal every year until I realize I’m not gonna, you know, meet that goal.”

  • Trent Williams doesn’t see RGIII comparison: It’s a pretty easy comparison to look at Kyle Shanahan’s last young, mobile quarterback in Robert Griffin III and compare Trey Lance to him. Griffin, though, was not the Shanahans preferred draft pick, whereas Lance was Kyle’s specific choice. There is also a chasmic gap in arm talent. But don’t take it from me, take it from Trent Williams, who scoffed at the comparison.

“I think the only similarities are that they’re both athletic.”

  • Shanahan’s athletic pinnacle revisited: One of the funniest moments of the presser was when Shanahan was asked about that now-iconic clip of him, while hanging out with friends in Southern California (including Joe Staley), throwing a football across the street to another house and into a pizza oven. Shanahan said it was, “My best athletic moment of my life. All the stars were aligned.”
  • According to Shanahan, he called his shot, saying, “I’m gonna hit this oven” and told his friends to record, with the throw winning Shanahan his friend’s golf clubs.

 

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