SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Jimmy Garoppolo obviously is excited for his comeback's launch party this Sunday in the 49ers season opener at Tampa. He's not the only one.
"Everybody is," right tackle Mike McGlinchey said Wednesday. "Not just here, but everybody all over America is ready to see what Jimmy can do.
"We expect nothing but great things from him this week."
Such are the expectations Garoppolo gladly is embracing, nearly a year after a season-ending ligament tear in his left knee, an injury he swears he forgot about by spring practices.
"It's kind of one of those things you put out of your head," Garoppolo said. "I have so many other things to worry about that you can't really be worrying about that all the time."
At Wednesday's practice, Garoppolo looked as focused as ever, such as correcting a receiver on the fine points of a route, and his passes looked sharper than normal, such as lacing 35-yard throws on target down the sideline.
Now comes only his 11th career start as he begins his sixth NFL season. He must prove his transcendent talent can last longer than a 5-0 debut for the 49ers in December 2017. After signing a then-record deal in February 2018 (five years, $137.5 million), his 2018 season abruptly ended Sept. 23 with a knee injury, setting up this season's comeback.
"It's been a long time coming, so it's finally here, getting into the game-week schedule and everything," Garoppolo said. "It's good to be back."
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His admiring teammates are ready to be more protective and supportive than ever.
"Excited to have (No.) 10 back on the field with us," left tackle Joe Staley said. "It's our job up front to give him time, to be prepared, to take as much pressure off him as we can."
Added coach Kyle Shanahan: "We need Sunday to come not just for him but for all of us. We've all been itching for this game since the season ended last year, and when you're coming back from an injury, I think that's even heightened for those type of players."
Garoppolo, 27, has never played in Tampa. His first career start, however, was a victorious one in the 2016 opener against the Bruce Arians-coached Arizona Cardinals. Arians will debut as Buccaneers coach Sunday, and he recalled Garoppolo rallying the New England Patriots in that 2016 game.
"He played very well, was very accurate, moved around the pocket well and we lost that game," Arians said on a media conference call Wednesday.
When Garoppolo overcame a lousy exhibition debut and bounced back Aug. 24 at Kansas City, that was enough to convince teammates his comeback is all set. "He's going to be fine. He's going to be great," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said.
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