Jimmy Garoppolo practiced for the second day in a row Thursday, and all signs now point to him returning as the 49ers starting quarterback Sunday.
Garoppolo, who missed the past 2 1/2 games with a high-ankle sprain, participated on a limited basis for the second straight day and his presence generated excitement from teammates.
None more so than George Kittle, who was happy to provide his unique scouting report on how Garoppolo looked in Santa Clara.
"Jimmy looks very handsome out on the field. Still got a rocket arm. He's still throwing me the ball, which is a good thing. So I'm excited about those three things," Kittle told reporters during a video conference.
While Kittle's favorable outlook may not sway the team's decision-makers on whether Garoppolo will against the Dolphins on Sunday, general manager John Lynch has his own views on what it meant for Garoppolo to practice again.
"The good news is he's been out there through two days of practice. I always think it's a positive step when you practice Wednesday and come back feeling a little better on Thursday," Lynch told KNBR-680. "There's been some good signs this week."
Left tackle Trent Williams can vouch for Garoppolo looking as if he could step in and help the 49ers bounce back from Sunday night's upset loss to the Eagles.
"Jimmy's been Jimmy," Williams said. "I know he's been dealing with the ankle. We hope to get him back soon. I'm thrilled that he's even trying to practice on it and he's out there throwing balls around.
"So, I'm hoping he continues to make progress so we can get him on the field soon."
Coach Kyle Shanahan, who wasn't available to the media on Thursday, may provide a clearer picture Friday on whether he'll need to call on Nick Mullens for a third straight week, or even C.J. Beathard.
The memories of Mullens struggling and needing to be relieved by Beathard are fresh in everyone's minds, but it's also worth remembering Garoppolo was playing brilliantly the last time he was on the field. He was 14 of 15 for 131 yards and two touchdowns - good for a sterling 140.4 quarterback rating - in Week 2 against the Jets before his ankle injury forced him out of the game.
Meanwhile, the 49ers also had running back Raheem Mostert practicing on a limited basis again, an encouraging sign his recovery from a sprained MCL puts him on track to playing for the first time in three weeks.
However, Deebo Samuel, who made his season debut Sunday night with three catches for 35 yards, was not at practice Thursday. He was listed out due to illness, which these days triggers questions about COVID. It should be noted, though, that players who test positive or have been in "close contact" with an infected person are immediately placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Samuel is not on that list.
Watching Williams, a 7-time Pro Bowl tackle, struggle in the 25-20 loss was an eye-opening experience for many, including those in the analytics crowd. But Williams said looks can also be deceiving.
Pro Football Focus handed Williams his worst grade of the season (63.7) while crediting him with allowing two sacks, four pressures, a QB hit and a hurry. He was also called for a holding penalty and a false start.
Williams took exception to what people think they saw from him, though.
"I know that sometimes the public perception can think some things are on you," said Williams, who said his coaching staff credited him with a half-sack. "In house, you kind of know they're not, so that's a tough deal to kind of juggle with, just dealing with perception versus reality."
Williams, though, did take ownership of the fact he wasn't at his best.
"Out of 74 plays, (there were) probably four or five that I wish I had back," he said. "Obviously, the penalties, that's on me. Boneheaded penalties, you gotta erase that from the game."
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was pleased to see linebacker Dre Greenlaw (quadriceps) continue making progress at practice this week.
"We all love Greenlaw. He's athletic, he's dynamic in the sense he covers a lot of space, both run game and pass game," Saleh said. "As he gets his legs back underneath him, any time you can add a player of his caliber back to the defense you're only gonna get better.
"When we had him, Kwon (Alexander) and Fred (Warner) rolling, we were really dynamic in that linebacker spot."
Saleh's defense got a boost when safety Jimmie Ward (wrist) was a full participant at practice after being out Wednesday.
Elsewhere, receivers Dante Pettis (knee) and Trent Taylor (ankle) also returned to practice, while cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) was limited. Cornerback Emmauel Moseley remained in concussion protocol.
Dolphins running back Matt Breida is excited to play against his old 49ers teammates, but he's trying not to get too hyped about facing the team that traded him in April.
"It's cool going back and playing against my former team," Breida told reporters Thursday. "I'm not going to treat it any differently than any other week. I'm very grateful. The trade wasn't like they didn't want me any more. The NFL is a business. You can't get your emotions too caught up in the business side of things."
Breida, who has just 72 yards on 18 carries in a reserve role, said leaving the 49ers was a blessing for a couple of reasons - he no longer has to worry about the Bay Area's high cost of living or the state's high income tax rate.
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