SANTA CLARA — What is 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo really like, and what did his former team, the New England Patriots, really think about him?
Here are Boston Globe Patriots reporter Ben Volin, and Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges (formerly of the Oakland Tribune), who covered Garoppolo at the Patriots. Each answered the same five questions.
1. What kind of guy is Garoppolo?
Volin: “He’s a nice kid from a nice middle-class background in Chicago. When they drafted him, I went out there and went to his house and met his family. Real nice parents. He’s got some brothers. Good upbringing.”
Borges: “Very pleasant. Nice guy. Popular. Very good with kids and people in general. I don’t think he’s a bloodthirsty guy or a backstabbing guy. He made the best of what had to become a hard situation over time. You have to remember, he’s 26. It’s not like he’s a little kid. How many more years was he going to sit?”
2. How did Garoppolo act in the locker room?
Volin: “Really easy to deal with. Whenever I’d be like, ‘Hey Jimmy, you got a second?’ he always did. And he’d sit there and answer our dumb questions about how frustrating it is not to play. I really enjoyed working with him.”
Borges: “He was pretty good in a difficult circumstance. He came in and he knew he was not only not going to play, but in a short period of time realized he was not even going to practice, because Brady wouldn’t let him take snaps. And that’s hard to swallow after a while.
“But Garoppolo never was sour one day. Last year when they did let him play, Brady didn’t like it even though he was suspended for four games. And that’s typical of him. I thought Garoppolo did a good job of putting the best face on what, after a while, had to be kind of a pain in the ass.”
3. Do players like Garoppolo?
Volin: “We only get limited interaction with them, but he was in a cluster with Brady and the receivers and (quarterback Jacoby) Brissett. All those guys got along. They would do a bros trip to the Kentucky Derby and Garoppolo was on the trip with Brady and Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and those guys. I think generally everyone in the locker room liked Jimmy and respected him.”
Borges: “I know they did like him overall, but they didn’t like the fact that he didn’t last two games before he basically wouldn’t play with an AC issue in his shoulder. And we can debate whether that’s a good idea or a bad idea, but Jacoby Brissett went in and tore a thumb ligament in his throwing hand and kept playing. I know quite frankly it privately bothered some of Garoppolo’s teammates that he didn’t keep going.”
4. How did Garoppolo get along with Brady?
Volin: “They got along well. They competed like crazy. Every day in practice, they were competing at something — hit the cone, throw it in the basket, whatever. And Jimmy wouldn’t just lay down. They’d compete.
“But this notion that Tom took him under his wing I think is way overblown. I don’t think Tom was like, ‘Come here, Jimmy, let me show you how it’s done.’ I think Jimmy sat in the meeting rooms with him and watched and served and learned a lot that way.
“Jimmy was the guy threatening to take his job. I don’t think Brady hated Jimmy, but he hated the idea of Jimmy.”
Borges: “I think they got along all right because Garoppolo was sufficiently acquiescent overall. But I think Brady began to feel last year that Garoppolo was starting to breathe down his neck a little bit and didn’t like that. I don’t think that manifested itself in any bad way, I just think Brady knew Garoppolo wanted to play and Brady had given him a little bit of an opening by getting suspended.
“Brady has never forgotten how he got the job (he got the job when Drew Bledsoe got hurt). We’ve talked about it a number of times. He has no illusions that the same thing can’t happen to him. It ain’t like it was going to be a love fest between him and Garoppolo. Brady cares about Brady.”
5. What did the Patriots’ coaching staff think of Garoppolo as a player?
Volin: “I think they loved him. If you go back and look at Bill’s comments from the last couple days, I think this decision killed him. They put 31/2 years into Jimmy and they really liked what he can do.
“Bill made a comment last season that when they put Jimmy out there in practice, he can do all the same things Tom does. He can run the team, he can call the audibles. It was pretty high praise. I think they liked him a lot, and I think they felt like they identified the next guy and it pained them to have to give up on him. It makes me wonder if this was an ownership decision overriding the football staff, with (Robert) Kraft not wanting to pay Jimmy the money and showing loyalty to Tom.”
Borges: “That’s one of the great mysteries, to be honest with you. Publicly, they say all the right stuff. But my experience says, after 42 years of this, if they really liked him, if they thought he was what some people want to say he is, he’d still be here. If they thought he was the next Brett Favre or the next Aaron Rodgers, then they’d wait for him. And they didn’t.
“I think sometimes rather than listening to all the noise, you just have to look at the reality of the situation. Belichick kept Garoppolo as long as he could, and then he let him go.”
The 49ers activated defensive lineman Ronald Blair and promoted offensive lineman Darrell Williams Jr. from the practice squad on Saturday.
The team also placed receiver Pierre Garcon on injured reserve and released offensive lineman Bryce Harris on Saturday to make room on the roster. Blair and Williams are expected to play today against Arizona.
Blair played 16 games as a rookie last season but has been sidelined since training camp with a hand injury. He had three sacks and 18 tackles as a rookie.
Williams spent the season on the practice squad after being signed as an undrafted free agent out of Western Kentucky.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.