Garoppolo set to face Rams as ankle feels ‘great’

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo‘s sprained right ankle might not be at full strength just yet, but it’s as close as it has been since before he injured it back in Week 2.

“As far as the ankle, it’s feeling great this week,” Garoppolo said Friday. “It really is. It’s made a lot of improvements, just that couple extra days it consistently gets better. So, just one of those things you have just got to keep working at it.”

Garoppolo made it through all three days of practice this week without any limitations and is not listed on the Niners’ injury report for Sunday. Which means he will start against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, his second consecutive start but apparently one in which he enters feeling better than he did last week against the Miami Dolphins.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said Garoppolo “looked healthy and had a good week of practice,” which gives him confidence that Garoppolo will not only start but offer a better performance than he did against the Dolphins.

“I’m not thinking about the ankle and I don’t think he is going into the game,” Shanahan said. “I think you try to get to a point where you’re healthy enough to play, which a lot of guys are at but a lot of guys have injuries they’ve got to play through. … I think Jimmy’s in a better spot this week than he was last week, so I don’t think about the ankle in that case. I expect him to go out and play well and that’s how I’ll judge him.”

Garoppolo had one of his worst professional outings last week against the Dolphins, finishing 7-of-17 for 77 yards with two interceptions for a QBR of 1.4, which was the lowest of his career and of any quarterback in a game this season.

At halftime of that game, Shanahan benched Garoppolo and inserted backup C.J. Beathard, in part because Garoppolo was struggling with the ankle injury and couldn’t drive the ball down the field.

Asked Friday what he’s learned about high ankle sprains since the injury, Garoppolo didn’t mince words.

“They suck,” Garoppolo said. “They’re not very fun. I always thought a high ankle was like a normal ankle sprain so you learn something new every day, I guess.”

Shanahan declined to say whether Beathard or Nick Mullens would back up Garoppolo against the Rams, though he indicated earlier in the week that he wouldn’t hesitate to make a change if Garoppolo’s ankle hinders him again.

Elsewhere on the upper ankle front, linebacker Kwon Alexander was ruled out for Sunday night because of his own high ankle sprain. Cornerback Dontae Johnson (groin) has also been ruled out.

Dre Greenlaw will start in Alexander’s place, but Shanahan offered some optimism Alexander will not need to go on injured reserve.

“I never like to say minor high ankle sprain because high ankle sprains are always a big issue,” Shanahan said. “But it wasn’t your typical one where they for sure go on IR, so that’s why we haven’t put him on that yet and we’re hoping to keep him off.”

The 49ers are expecting to get starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley back from a concussion this week. Moseley is listed as questionable because he has one more step in the protocol to clear, but if he does, he should be ready to start opposite Jason Verrett.

And though the Niners had hoped to have some reinforcements on the way in the form of center Weston Richburg, defensive end Ronald Blair III and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor, all of whom are on the physically unable to perform list, Shanahan said that’s unlikely to happen next week when all three are eligible to open their practice window for the first time.

Players on PUP list can begin practicing after six weeks, but Shanahan said none of the three are healthy enough to do so and are more likely to return sometime in the range of Weeks 10-12.

Blair recently suffered a setback that pushed his return back further, despite early optimism he might be able help the Niners’ banged-up corps of pass rushers soon.

“Ronald Blair did have a setback, had to redo some things to his knee, some stuff that they messed up in it,” Shanahan said. “And he is doing a lot better from that, but that’s why he’s gonna be a couple weeks longer than expected.”

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