SANTA CLARA — The 49ers plan to start C.J. Beathard at quarterback Sunday against the New York Giants, but that plan could change if Jimmy Garoppolo plays well during practice this week. Kyle Shanahan confirmed this at his Wednesday press conference.
“I’m committed to C.J. starting right now,” Shanahan said. “He’s going to get all the reps as the starting quarterback right now when we go out to practice. But we’ve had guys being the starters at certain positions on Wednesday, Thursday and based on how they practice we change that on Friday.
“I’m not trying to lead you guys on to anything. I really feel the exact same as I felt last week. I know for obvious reasons, Jimmy is further along than he was last week. I plan on going with C.J. and we’ll see how practice goes.”
Shanahan said the 49ers considered activating practice squad quarterback Nick Mullens last week so he could back up Beathard when the 49ers played the Arizona Cardinals. But Garoppolo made big strides learning the playbook and the team felt he could run roughly 45 plays had he gone in the game.
“If C.J. would have gone down, you guys would have saw me rip up my call sheet and you would have saw another call sheet come from someone and hand it to me and I would have gone with what (Jimmy) knows. That’s what he was prepared to do.”
Garoppolo has been cramming to learn the playbook as fast as possible since he arrived in Santa Clara a week ago.
“I try to get in here as early as possible,” Garoppolo said at his locker on Wednesday. “Getting the car rental helped out. They were giving me rides and everything in the first week. I stay here as late as I need to, try to get as much sleep, but sleep has been tough to get lately.
“I’m eager. Coach has a good plan set up, though. Whatever he wants, I’ll be ready to perform.”
Shanahan is eager to play Garoppolo as soon as possible, too.
“That doesn’t always mean that’s the right decision,” Shanahan said. “That’s what I’m trying to balance out. If I just went off impulse and feeling, I would have done that the very first day, the very first second. But I’m trying to do what’s right for Jimmy and what’s right for our team.
“A lot more things go into that and it’s not something I can set a date on or a plan. It’s something that I have to evaluate. And there’s a lot more decisions to that than just can he spit out the play. How’s he doing? Is he comfortable in there? Does he have a chance to run the offense?”
Does the pass protection factor into the decision of when to play Garoppolo? Beathard got hit 20 times last Sunday against Cardinals.
“It all factors in,” Shanahan said. “I don’t want Jimmy to take all those shots.”
Last week, Shanahan said the 49ers traded for Garoppolo not to save their season, but to secure their future at quarterback. So what do the 49ers stand to gain if they play him on Sunday?
“Guy gets an opportunity to play,” Shanahan said. “He hasn’t played very much, so if we think it can help him, if we think it can help our team, then that’s something you want to do.
“No, we didn’t bring him here to save our season — that was the cool thing about getting him. I don’t feel the pressure that, ‘Hey, we have to do this right now.’ That’s one of the reasons I said, I think the first day I got here, that I wanted to come here. I thought we were in a position where we could do things the right way and make the right decisions and that’s really what we are trying to do now.
“We’re not trying to make a decision based off of what our record is; based off of that I know everyone is very excited and wants to see him play, including myself, including our coaches and players, including my wife.”
“I had to simmer her down a little bit,” Shanahan said. “When you make a trade, everyone feels the same. Everyone comes in the next day, ‘Oh this is what it’s going to be the rest of the year.’
“Trying to explain myself to you guys, I have to explain myself to her, too. She understands it more now than she did the first day. I’m chipping away at it.”
Shanahan can chip away at his wife all he wants — Giants head coach Ben McAdoo isn’t buying the hesitancy to play Garoppolo.
“I would actually kind of expect (to face Garoppolo on Sunday),” McAdoo said on a conference call Wednesday morning. “You get a guy like that, you want to get him out there and give him a few reps as soon as possible.”
Left tackle Joe Staley was a limited participant during Wednesday’s practice. He fractured the orbital bone in his right eye when the 49ers played the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 29. Whether he plays Sunday against the Giants will be a game-time decision.
The 49ers plan to activate defensive end Tank Carradine from injured reserve this week. He will practice with the team and could return to action Nov. 26 when the 49ers play the Seattle Seahawks.