- Covered Rams for nine years for stlouisrams.com
- Previously covered University of Missouri football
- Member of Pro Football Writers of America
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — While San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan’s definitive declaration that this team now belongs to quarterback Trey Lance might have come as news to outside observers, it was just another day at the office for Lance himself.
“Honestly, the only difference is I was hoping you guys would stop asking me about it all the time,” Lance said Thursday. “For me, it wasn’t really a moment or anything like that. I’ve been excited. I’ve been preparing to play since the day I got here, since the day I got drafted. So, obviously excited for this year but nothing has really changed this whole offseason.”
Shanahan made that statement Tuesday, the day the Niners reported for the start of this year’s training camp. And though it had long been expected that Lance was ready to step in as the starter, Shanahan had previously declined to say it in such certain terms.
But with training camp’s arrival and the pending departure of incumbent starter Jimmy Garoppolo, who has passed a physical as he recovers from right shoulder surgery, nobody had much reason to further delay the inevitable.
After taking all of the reps with the starting offense in the offseason program, Lance arrived at this camp knowing that the job was his and that every practice is an opportunity to prepare to lead a team that has Super Bowl aspirations.
For right now, the objective for the Niners is to reinforce the fundamentals of Shanahan’s offense before turning an eye toward some of the additional skills — such as running — that Lance brings to the table.
“There’s certain plays you have to get good at just to succeed in this league and to move the ball,” Shanahan said. “And then what can Trey do differently than we’ve had? I do believe Trey is a threat to run at any time, so knowing that he is a threat to run at any time, that definitely changes things. That gives another element that defenses have to worry about.”
Lance’s first two days of practice as the confirmed starter have come with some ups and downs. On Wednesday, he took 16 snaps in team drills, operating mostly from the pocket and appearing to be in control as he completed 5 of 7 passes during team drills.
On Thursday, Lance had a few more hiccups, including an interception he threw right to free safety Jimmie Ward and a couple of misfires to open targets that fell incomplete. Lance was pleased with how the offense rebounded, and he drew large cheers from fans when he scrambled for a long run down the left sideline and again when he found receiver Brandon Aiyuk between two defenders on a deep out late in the session.
Despite the miscues, Lance said he felt like Thursday was better than Wednesday, though he acknowledged the turnovers have to stop (the offense had three other interceptions in addition to Lance’s).
If nothing else, Lance can move forward confidently knowing he’s free to make and learn from mistakes without looking over his shoulder.
“Last year I was definitely in a different spot mentally, I would say,” Lance said. “Just feeling a lot more confident this year coming in knowing what I’m doing, knowing the offense a lot better, knowing the guys a lot better, having been around this organization and coaching staff for a year, I think it will be a great thing.”
As for Garoppolo, he has been in the building and continuing his throwing program but is not attending practice as the Niners seek a trade partner for him. Lance said he saw Garoppolo on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s nothing weird at all,” Lance said. “I’ve never had anything I could possibly say that’s bad about Jimmy. He’s been a big brother to me since the day I came in, and he could have made things hell for me last year. He didn’t. He helped me out with everything so I’m super excited to see him healthy, I’m super excited to see him throwing again and super excited to see what he does.”
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