SANTA CLARA — Trey Lance’s gratitude toward others is glaring regarding his predictable road to becoming the 49ers’ starting quarterback.
Count Jimmy Garoppolo among them.
“He could have made things hell for me, honestly, last year. He didn’t,” Lance said after Thursday’s second practice of training camp. “He helped me out with everything. So I’m super excited to see him healthy, super excited to see him throwing again, and super excited to see what he does.”
What Garoppolo isn’t doing is practicing this camp nor competing with Lance, not even after helping the 49ers to their second NFC Championship Game in three seasons.
That’s because 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch are committed a plan they hatched a year ago, when they mortgaged first-round picks in the 2021-23 drafts to move up and select Lance, a dual-threat but raw talent from North Dakota State.
Lance spent his rookie year mostly learning on the bench — as planned — except for essentially 2 1/2 games as Garoppolo’s injury replacement.
Garoppolo remains on the roster, for now. His March shoulder surgery complicated his exodus and stalled any trade until he regained health, which he is pursuing now with rehabilitatory throwing sessions on the 49ers’ fields before practice, or at least that was the case Wednesday.
What was it like when Lance ran into Garoppolo as camp began — and with Shanahan’s crystal-clear declaration that “this is Trey’s team” on Tuesday?
“It is what it is. It’s nothing weird at all,” Lance said. “I’ve never had anything I can possibly say that’s bad about Jimmy. He’s been a big brother to me since the day I came in here.
“He was a great leader on this team,” Lance added. “He handled himself the right way, the way he went about his business. He was locked in every day, just a true professional.”
This season, Lance is receiving guidance from new quarterbacks coach Brian Griese and his assistant, Klint Kubiak. Nate Sudfeld’s return as the backup quarterback is also a boon in Lance’s eyes.
“I was definitely, definitely hoping we’d be able to keep him (in spring free agency) because he could easily be playing somewhere else,” Lance said of Sudfeld, who re-signed for a largesse $2 million. “I’m super excited just for him to be in the (QB) room. He’s a good friend of mine, off the field as well.”
As for the coaching Lance gets from Shanahan, most of that takes place in the meeting and film rooms. The sixth-year coach occasionally will chime in during practice, as he did Thursday, when Lance wasn’t as sharp (7-of-15, one interception) but still threaded impressive completions along with some speedy scrambles.
“On the field, it’s hard, because we try to keep the tempo going, so we don’t comment a whole lot, other than a quick comment and I’ll ask what he thought (of a play), or if he saw something different,” Lance said. “He goes through the play with us and he’ll point where he would have gone with the ball, even if he could have made the throw.
“It’s fun. It helps me out a lot, him standing behind, always. He sees every play and knows where he’d gone with the ball. Most of the (coaching) goes on in the meeting room.”
Here is a quick-hitting review of 10 other topics Lance answered:
1. On his QB1 coronation:
“The only difference is I hope you guys would stop asking about it all the time. For me, it wasn’t a moment, or anything like that. I’ve been excited. I’ve been prepared. I’ve been preparing to play since the day I got here, the day I got drafted. Obviously I’m excited for this year. Nothing’s really changed this offseason.”
The only outside reaction he’s heard is “(from) people that saw you guys post on social media and the press conference, that really didn’t know anything that’s been going on in our building. It wasn’t really an ah-ha moment or anything like that.”
2. On any changes to his throwing mechanics:
“I’ll let you guys decide. I threw a lot of footballs this offseason, I’ll say that.”
3. On his dynamic with Deebo Samuel and what he’ll bring once he practices, presumably with an imminent contract extension:
“I’m just excited to get him back. It’s good have him out there, at practice, in the meeting rooms so we could still be on the same page. He’s gotten his body back in shape so he’s in a great spot. Definitely excited to have him back on the practice field, whenever that is.”
4. On Brandon Aiyuk, his favorite target all offseason and this camp:
“Brandon had a great offseason. We got to spend a lot of time together this spring and summer, between OTAs and camp. Getting to know him better has helped me out a lot, as well as the other receivers.
“If you know anything about Brandon, he doesn’t talk a lot. So the first couple of times we worked out together, he didn’t talk to me at all, right after I got drafted. We just went to work. I learned quickly that’s how he carries himself. He’s about business when he’s on the field. We got super close this offseason and I’m really exited for him.”
5. On new cornerback Charvarius Ward, whose Instagram handle is “@itslilmooney”:
“Yeah, Mooney’s super talented, and he knows it, the way he carries himself around in the locker room, a natural leader who guys gravitate toward, for sure. On the field, you can see what he does. We have a really talented receiver group so it’s a great challenge for them.
“We’re excited to get J.V. (Jason Verrett) back too, hopefully soon, these next few weeks. I don’t know. I didn’t mean to say the next few weeks. I don’t know his timeline. But he’s a good friend of mine and I’m excited he’s coming back.
6. On camp’s beginning days:
“They’ve been awesome. Definitely had a better day today, more reps, more volume. Guys were ready to go, flying around, defense was fast, receivers were fast. It’s been a ton of fun the last couple days. Yesterday we had a good day. Today we turned the ball over too much, but it was a good day overall.
“We’re going one day at a time, trying to get better every single day. We know our defense is really good but three turnovers … one turnover is too many. After our turnovers, we turned it around really quick, which is a bigger part than not throwing picks at all.
7. On his growth from last year to this year:
“Last year, definitely in a different spot mentally, I’d say. Just feeling a lot more confident this year, knowing what I’m doing, knowing the offense a lot better, knowing the guys a lot better. Having been around this coaching staff for a year will be a great thing.”
8. On interaction with new QB coach Brian Griese:
“It’s been awesome. OTAs were super important. Him having played and us spending so much time together, it’s been awesome. Him and Klay Kubiak. I got to spend more time last year with Klay; he ran the scout team, was on the defensive side. It’s been awesome. We see the game, all three of us. Also Nate and Brock have been a ton of help for me as well. Those guys can play. Brock made a big-time throw today.”
9. On examples of Nate Sudfeld as a mentor:
“He’s in Year (6). He’s been in different offenses, different situations. I know he loves it here and I love having him here. I was definitely, definitely hoping we’d be able to keep him (in spring free agency) because he could easily be playing somewhere else. I’m super excited just for him to be in the (QB) room. He’s a good friend of mine, off the field as well.”
(Sudfeld said of Lance: “He’s grown really well. I’m excited for him. It’s a genuine approach wanting to get better. But he’s also super confident in such a humble way.”)
10. On rookie receiver Danny Gray and the receivers’ speed:
“Danny’s obviously super special. His speed is one thing that separates him. He’s going to continue to learn the offense and get more comfortable. We’re super excited to have him here. We’ve got a few guys – Marcus (Johnson), Malik (Turner), Brandon (Aiyuk), Jauan even – a few guys that could go (deep). So I’m super excited.”