Jimmy Garoppolo returns to 49ers practice, but Trey Lance remains sidelined
SANTA CLARA — While Jimmy Garoppolo practiced Monday for the first time since his Oct. 3 calf injury, fellow quarterback Trey Lance did not take the field alongside him. Lance was diagnosed with a left knee sprain from his Oct. 10 starting debut.
Garoppolo's right calf looks unhindered and that puts him on target to reprise his starting role Sunday night when the 49ers (2-3) host the Indianapolis Colts (2-4).
"Seemed like Jimmy," left tackle Trent Williams said. "He was fighting to get back last week. Seeing him this week, he seems like he's been ready. If there was a game last week, he'd probably have been OK to play.
"So, yeah, Jimmy looks like Jimmy."
Garoppolo warmed up alongside Nate Sudfeld, who will likely be elevated again from the practice squad to serve as the backup for a second straight game if Lance is inactive Sunday.
Lance was projected to miss one to two weeks because of the knee sprain that was diagnosed a day after the 49ers' 17-10 loss at Arizona, in which the rookie had 16 carries.
DeForest Buckner's upcoming return to Levi's Stadium is already stirring mixed emotions, and safety Jimmie Ward put into poignant perspective how Buckner's March 2020 trade to Indianapolis impacted the 49ers overall.
"You know what DeFo brought to this team. He was the heart and soul when he was here," safety Jimmie Ward said. "I wasn't happy about it, but I understand the business side. I'm pretty sure you all knew something was going to happen, just like I did. Just didn't know what was going to happen."
What happened was the 49ers opted not to pay Buckner, their top pick in 2016, and instead retained Arik Armstead, their No. 1 draft choice in 2015. The 49ers pocketed the Colts' first-round draft pick (No. 13 overall) and Buckner landed a four-year, $84 million contract with $40 million guaranteed. Armstead's extension was announced the same day, a five-year-, $85 million pact with $45 million guaranteed.
"It was bittersweet. We ended up getting (Javon) Kinlaw and we ended up getting Brandon Aiyuk," Ward said of last year's first-round draft picks.
"But we lost a leader — especially a leader in defense and on this team. He's still my brother and I still love him."
Ward commended coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch for the strides they took to replace Buckner, from drafting Kinlaw to finding other defensive tackles such as D.J. Jones and Kevin Givens. Kinlaw has a knee issue that's limited him all year, and he did not practice Monday.
"Those guys have to work on their craft and they're doing great. Watch these last three games and teams couldn't run the ball at all," Ward added. "Buck was unique in some of the stuff he did, how aggressive he was and his mindset. The players now are the same type, but they're them. Can't be Buck. He's a totally different person. Thinks different. Built different."
Nickel back K'Waun Williams rejoined practice after being out with a calf injury since early in the Sept. 26 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Dontae Johnson and Deommodore Lenoir have filled in covering slot wide receivers since then.
Williams was not placed on injured reserve so he is eligible to return after missing two games.
Neither linebacker Dre Greenlaw (groin; injured reserve) nor Marcell Harris (thumb) practiced, and neither was Mychal Kendricks, who re-signed later in the day with the club after undergoing COVID testing.
Harris was expected to undergo surgery last week for a fractured right thumb, and that would help prompt the 49ers to re-sign Kendricks. Two months ago, Kendricks sustained a toe injury on the first snap of his 49ers debut, in a preseason win at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Running back outlook
Elijah Mitchell looks set to make his Levi's Stadium debut Sunday night as the starting running back. An "achy" shoulder injury kept him out of their previous home losses to Green Bay and Seattle, but he returned to action last game, albeit with just nine carries for 43 yards at Arizona.
"I go back and watch film and say, 'Man, if I would have made this cut, or if I bounced it outside, it could have been a big play.' I just try to go into every week trying to fix that and just play ball," Mitchell added. "It makes me sick to my stomach when I see stuff like that. I try every week to keep going and make the right cut next time."
Running back JaMycal Hasty resumed practicing after his Sept. 19 high ankle sprain. The 49ers have three weeks to activate him off injured reserve.
Meanwhile, Jacques Patrick was signed to the practice squad after being released last week; offensive lineman Jon Halapio also joined the practice squad, and safety Jared Mayden was released from it.
The 49ers (2-3) are a half-game out of the NFC's third wild-card spot, and Williams said there is no need to panic so early in a 17-game season.
"We're just looking for a win. Making a statement, that's stuff for everybody else to write about and listen to," Williams said. "We just finished (Game No.) 5 of 17.
"Of course, we've got plenty of time. There's no panic from us. We get to play our division rivals again and even out the score. We're not too worried. There's definitely a need to get a win to end this 'losing streak' but I don't think panic is what we need to do."
What the 49ers' offensive line must do next is to overcome last game's holding and blocking issues, and do so against a Colts defense that saw Buckner register his second sack of the season Sunday.
"Their strength is the defensive front," said Williams. " They've got a stud at linebacker (Darius Leonard), and a stud at defensive tackle, as you guys know, so not much has changed at that. He's still dominant. It doesn't get any easier for us, and that's what makes the NFL the NFL."
Williams wore a brace on his left elbow during practice but said afterward that the joint was "fine."
Monday marked exactly one year since the 49ers' last win at Levi's Stadium: a 24-16 victory over the Los Angeles Rams). "That's not good. We definitely need a win and we're definitely working toward that," Ward said. "We had a great practice today, guys enjoy being out there and it doesn't even seem like we're 2-3 right now."