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Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday that doctors concluded Garoppolo did not suffer a Lisfranc injury to his broken left foot and will not need surgery. If his rehabilitation goes well, he has a chance to return in seven to eight weeks, the sources said.
A potential Garoppolo return would depend on whether the Niners advance far enough in the postseason. A seven-week timetable would mean a possible return for the NFC divisional round, and eight weeks would be the NFC Championship Game. The Super Bowl is 10 weeks away.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that the news on Garoppolo’s injury seemed to be better than initially feared but he didn’t want to offer an official diagnosis until Garoppolo had sought and received one from multiple doctors.
“That’s why they’re still trying to work through it,” Shanahan said Monday. “Some specialists have to finalize it, so we don’t want to give you guys any false information. They’re discussing all those things, but we’re feeling like it’s starting to get better than that, so we’ll see when we get the official information.”
Of course, Garoppolo would still have to prove he can recover from the injury on that timeline to be able to contribute. According to ESPN injury analyst Stephania Bell, the fact that Garoppolo doesn’t need surgery indicates that he has a “stable” injury, which means the broken bones in his foot are in good alignment and don’t need to be repositioned, and that there was no significant ligament damage that would require surgery.
For Garoppolo to return, there are a number of boxes he would have to check. The foot will have to go through a period of immobilization for the fractures to heal. To get back to playing, he would need to have enough mobility in the foot to run and get back to all the things that a quarterback needs to do after that immobilization period.
In addition, the 49ers would need to keep a roster spot available for Garoppolo. They could just carry him on the roster as their third quarterback behind starter Brock Purdy and veteran Josh Johnson, or they could put him on injured reserve and bring him back if and when he’s considered ready to play.
The latter option might be tricky given that the Niners have already used six of their eight injured reserve returns this year and are hoping to activate defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and running back Elijah Mitchell once they have progressed from their knee injuries.
“You’re allowed eight, that’s the biggest thing, and I think we need to use them by the [end of the season] because the playoffs aren’t four weeks long,” Shanahan said last week.
Of course, the quarterback spot could take precedence, and it’s no guarantee either Kinlaw or Mitchell will be activated. The Niners also have said repeatedly that quarterback Trey Lance, who is recovering from a right ankle injury, is not a candidate to return from injured reserve, but he also has been progressing from the surgery that put him on injured reserve in Week 2.
Garoppolo suffered the injury eight plays into Sunday’s victory over the Miami Dolphins. Purdy replaced Garoppolo and went 25-of-37 for 210 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 88.8 against the Dolphins.
The Niners plan to move forward with Purdy as the starter and Johnson as the backup. As Shanahan hinted on Monday, the Niners did not put in a waiver claim for released quarterback Baker Mayfield, sources said. The Los Angeles Rams claimed Mayfield off waivers on Tuesday.
San Francisco hosts the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.