With full knowledge that the phrase “the news out of training camp” is the oxiest of morons, the news out of the San Francisco 49ers’ training camp is as good as it’s been all year. Zach Wilson hurt his knee in Friday night’s slap-and-tickle with the Philadelphia Eagles and will miss about a month.
That’s always the only real news in any training camp—who got hurt and how bad is it. Oh, people like to pretend they can see trends and developments in every microscopic detail, but they’re mostly full of what the neighbor’s cat just dropped in your pool. Anyone who tells you they learn things from exhibition games are people you do not want to drink with, even if they’re the ones with the open tab.
As for the Jets and 49ers, though, well, let’s put it this way. After a quiet interval of respect for the Jets’ loss of their starting quarterback, San Francisco general manager/Shanahanian aide de camp John Lynch was on the horn to 1-800-JOE-DOUGLAS offering up Jimmy Garoppolo as a fresh alternative to Joe Flacco. The selling point would be “Robert Saleh used to work for us, and he’ll tell you what a swell guy Jimmy is, plus you need him more than you need that third-round pick we intend to extract from you.” It’s kismet.
It’s also a bit of a fib, in that the real selling point is, “We’ve been trying to move this guy since he recovered from his shoulder surgery because we think based on almost no evidence that Trey Lance is our future, either in triumph or in disgrace. You can’t get that elusive sixth win with Flacco, or frankly with Wilson either. We are your ticket to 6–11—now let’s talk us some turkey.”
That’s what training camp is—warrantless optimism and train cars full of frothy happy-talk bullshit with brief episodes of catastrophic injury. The Wilson knee is not catastrophic (it is described as a non-contact bone bruise and torn meniscus), as he is expected to miss no more than one game unless he decides to rehab through motocross, but that doesn’t mean Lynch isn’t burning with optimism’s flame. Garoppolo has been unshiftable since his March shoulder surgery, and a story in the San Francisco Chronicle this week suggesting that Garoppolo’s relationship to the midnight oil is fleeting at best suggests that desperation may have turned to crankiness. Not that “Hey, who wants our absentee quarterback?” is a great sales point, but it does suggest that the 49ers are getting a bit antsy. Sure they can cut Garoppolo before having to pay him, but that’s an accountant’s reverie; the plan was to get a thing in return, either a human, future human or conceptual human.
And so, Zach Wilson. And if not Zach Wilson, then the next guy who turns left when his knee wants to turn right. There will be others, no matter how hard the coaches try not to play important players in games that mean nothing except as crap television. Hell, maybe the quarterback who goes down is Lance, and then the 49ers can talk to themselves about Garoppolo. After all, they’ve been selling him as the guy who took the team to a Super Bowl and an NFC Title game even though the common wisdom is that the 49ers did it more with defense and ball control. Who better to know his value than the people putting the value on him?
Anyway, there’s a game tonight (Vikings-Raiders, and the Vikings can’t lose Kirk Cousins tonight because he has COVID) and then 32 more after that, and Shanahan and Lynch live in hope of someone else’s hopelessness. And that’s the news out of training camp—waiting for some shit to happen to someone.