49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo goes from side-field exile to 'Sunday Night Football' start

Cam Inman, Bay Area News Group on

Published in Football

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite — and, basically, only — receiver this training camp: Cam Bustos, a 6-foot-3, 22-year-old staffer in the 49ers’ health and performance department.

“He actually had a nice catch radius, man. He was a high school receiver,” Garoppolo said, in a complimentary way. “I got his whole story. We spent a lot of time together.”

Garoppolo-to-Kittle, this was not.

Instead, a bizarre spectacle ensued daily at camp on the 49ers’ side field — the one with artificial turf, a Navy SEALs obstacle course, a field-goal post, and, throughout August, a former Super Bowl quarterback toiling away between jobs.

Sunday night, Garoppolo will be passing to All-Pro stud Deebo Samuel, to tight end George Kittle in his probable season debut, and to other NFL-caliber targets, all against the host Denver Broncos on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” global stage.

“It takes a couple of days, then you’re back to normal,” Garoppolo said of his chemistry with those receivers, including newcomers Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray.


Garoppolo got thrust back into his former starting role once Trey Lance broke his right ankle in the first quarter of Sunday’s home-opening, 27-7 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

What got Garoppolo ready for this? Well, a lot, starting with March 8 shoulder surgery that threw his career into limbo. Upon reporting to camp two months ago, with everyone expecting him to eventually join another team, Garoppolo was allowed in to throw on a side field.

Teammates didn’t ignore him, and, if time allowed, some happily would chat him up, as kicker Robbie Gould often did.

“Everyone understood what the scenario was,” Gould said. “As far as that’s concerned, there was really no need to talk about what was going on. It was more me being me, and busting his chops about whether it’s rehab or throwing to a trainer.


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