SANTA CLARA — The San Francisco 49ers placed wide receiver Pierre Garcon on injured reserve Thursday night, ending his 2017 season.
Garcon injured his neck last Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and had to leave the game early. On Thursday, the team learned his injury is a non-displaced fracture of the C5 pedicle, which is a cervical vertebrae near his skull. The injury typically takes eight weeks to heal.
Garcon hasn’t missed a game since 2012, when he suffered a pedal foot tear which required surgery.
This offseason, Garcon signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the 49ers. He is an elite wide receiver who was supposed to lead the team. He started eight games and caught 40 passes for 500 yards and no touchdowns.
Garcon generally lined up at flanker and ran short and intermediate routes. He is a possession receiver. While he’s out, wide receivers Aldrick Robinson and Kendrick Bourne could see more playing time.
Robinson is a five-year veteran who has appeared in eight games this season. He has caught 10 passes for 168 yards and one touchdown.
Bourne is an undrafted rookie who has appeared in three games and caught zero passes.
GAROPPOLO’S PRACTICE DEBUT: Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took one snap with the starters and two snaps with the scout team on Wednesday during his first practice with the 49ers, which was closed to the media.
“He mostly just played in the walkthrough,” center Daniel Kilgore said in the locker room before Thursday’s practice. “(Garoppolo) is still trying to learn this game plan and overall offense. The coaches definitely are going to take their time and groom him. He’s still learning. He probably won’t take a lot of the reps with the starters, but they’re going to work him in there. The guy just got here on Tuesday. You can’t just throw him in the fire already.”
What are the players’ first impressions of Garoppolo?
“Very Italian,” Kilgore said.
“Smooth guy,” tight end Garrett Celek said. “He has a lot of confidence. You can tell he’s picking up the offense. He hasn’t picked it up all the way yet, but what he is picking up he’s actually picking up pretty fast. Just his presence in the huddle — I really like his presence. He’s confident.”
“He has a crisp cadence,” tight end George Kittle said. “He sounds like he knows what he’s doing.”
A cadence is the way a quarterback yells his signals at the line of scrimmage. “Blue 82” is a classic signal.
“Crisp cadence, yes,” Celek said. “It’s very precise. He enunciates. It’s funny — I noticed all the other quarterbacks starting to enunciate more. He’s rubbing off.”
“He’s got a radio voice,” Kilgore said. “Clear. Talks well. He’s got command at the line. He takes over the huddle. You can tell he has been in the league for a while.”
“He’s got a little nice smile on him,” linebacker Reuben Foster said. “An innocent smile. He’s going to fit in perfectly. He’s a winner. I can see it.”
FOSTER’S BACK: The linebacker missed Sunday’s game against Philadelphia with back spasms. The 49ers are hopeful he will play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, but are not certain.
“Just like last week, he’s trying to get through practice and stay healthy and show us that he can do it both mentally and physically,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said during his weekly press conference on Thursday.
Foster suffered a high-ankle sprain during the season opener and missed five games. Then he returned against the Dallas Cowboys and injured his ribs. Then, he suffered back spasms a week later.
“I don’t know if it was the plane ride or not,” Foster said at his locker on Thursday. “The body does crazy things. You never can predict the body. I had some painful back spasms. It’s gone, but I’m still going to listen to the doctors. There’s still maintenance, because you don’t know what caused the back spasms.”
Saleh said Foster “definitely” isn’t injury prone. “That didn’t cross my mind. He’s just been very unlucky and unfortunate with some of the things that have happened to him. Once he gets his body back, the improvement is just going to skyrocket. It’s just a matter of getting him going.
“He spent the first few months here rehabbing his shoulder. I anticipate that when he does get a full offseason and his body is in tune with itself and it’s clicking, I think he will be much more fortunate next year.”
WARD ON I.R.: Free safety Jimmie Ward broke his forearm last Sunday against the Eagles. On Wednesday, the 49ers placed him on the season-ending injured reserve list.
“Jimmie was doing well,” Saleh said. “He pulled his hammy during training camp, so you can’t possibly be in top physical shape after all that time missed. I do think there’s a trickle-down effect to it where your body just kind of wears down. To get a full offseason, no doubt it can only help.”
Last season, Ward played cornerback and weighed 192 pounds. This season, the new coaching staff moved him to free safety and asked him to gain weight so his body could withstand the high-impact collisions safeties are subject to.
When the season began, Ward weighed 197 pounds. Next season, the team wants him to weigh 202 pounds so he’ll be more durable.
In the meantime, Jaquiski Tartt will play free safety. He played there the first two games of the season, then moved to strong safety when Ward returned.
“Tartt has got a really good feel back there,” said Saleh. “He may not have elite speed, but he’s plenty fast enough. He’s very physical. He understands angles and tracking and he delivers a shot. If people are working down the middle and Tartt is in the middle, you better keep your head on a swivel.
“He’s very smart. He can sit back there, read the quarterback and still be able to take care of the seams and the posts. I’m very comfortable with Tartt as the free safety.”