As the possibility looms that 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will decide to send quarterback Trey Lance back to the bench in favor of starter-turned-backup Jimmy Garoppolo, there’s still another path for Garoppolo to get back on the field.
Lance could get injured.
Coach Kyle Shanahan has been harping on Lance to protect himself. But that doesn’t mean he should always give up in lieu of trying to gain extra yardage. And that’s where the injury risk resides.
“There’s always going to be, like I said a million times, there’s always going to be better decisions I can make,” Lance told reporters Wednesday. “But on Sunday I felt like I protected myself pretty well, I felt good for the most part. Maybe a couple I could have got down one step faster or slashing, finding an edge and getting down. But for the most part, when I’m running between the tackles or running on third down, I’m not ever going to slide and go fourth-and-two and just give up on the play and send our defense on the field if it’s a situation like that.”
Lance is still learning how his physical abilities mesh with the skills of those chasing him.
“I’m not bigger, faster, and stronger than pretty much everyone else,” Lance said. “Guys catch up a lot quicker, space is filled, guys close a lot faster, and I have to learn to protect myself, just being in a different situation knowing how important it is for me to stay healthy. . . . Guys coming downhill, guys don’t hesitate. That’s definitely one of the biggest things, for me, especially running laterally, I got to be able to protect myself.”
Shanahan seems to agree with the notion that there will be times when Lance must throw caution to the wind in the interest of getting wins.
“He’s got to play football still too,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “And so I just compare it to all the quarterbacks in the league who could run and there’s times to slide, there’s time to take edges and dive. There’re ways for receivers who get tackled going forward, splitting two people where they’re getting hit on the sides of their shoulders that you don’t feel. You have to get down when you have people in certain areas that are vulnerable, but there’s going to be some that he gets hit on. There’s going to be some that he can protect himself. And that’s just for him and us to work through.”
One thing they’re not working through is the increasing speculation that he could be in danger of getting the hook. They’re not working through it because they’re ignoring it.
“I just don’t account for it,” Shanahan said of the noise. “That’s just outside of here and it doesn’t really have to do with what we’re doing.”
Maybe not yet. But if the 49ers, who are nearly 10-point favorites on Sunday, lose to the Seahawks, it could have a lot to do with what they’ll be doing the following week, when Shanahan takes his team back to Denver.