HENDERSON, Nev. — On a typically hot July summer’s day, the Raiders opened training camp with their starting quarterback on the field and participating fully in the drills.
Jimmy Garoppolo, who had been cleared to practice earlier in the week after having surgery in March for a foot injury which kept him out of minicamp. Wednesday, Jimmy G looked relaxed and ready to play.
Looking for a positive, Raiders fans? There you go. Of course, the big question is, “For how long?”
Garoppolo’s durability has been in question for most of his NFL career. It goes back to 2016 when he was still with New England and he suffered a sprained shoulder. His run with the San Francisco 49ers had been a veritable pothole-filled road of mishaps. There was the torn ACL in his left knee in 2018. There was the high right ankle sprain in 2020. In 2021, he suffered a calf strain, then a fractured thumb. In January of 2022, he sprained his shoulder in the playoffs against Dallas. And in December, he broke his foot, leading to surgery in March.
Still, the Raiders were willing to gamble on Jimmy G. He got a three-year, $72.75 million contract to replace Derek Carr. So the Raiders know what they’re getting, which is why it is so important that the offensive line performs and keeps him upright.
Of course, that doesn’t guarantee anything. Non-contact injuries happen in the NFL and at age 31, the two-time Super Bowl champion QB is still a high risk to get hurt given his history.
Obviously, Garoppolo doesn’t dwell on what could be. His focus is on getting comfortable with his teammates, being on the same page with head coach Josh McDaniels, who worked with him when both were with the Patriots, and offensive coordinator Mick Lombardi.
“Last night felt like a little kid who was getting ready for his first day of school,” Garoppolo said. “I thought we had a pretty good day. A couple of misses but overall it went well.”
Garoppolo looked comfortable despite the triple-digit heat that had penetrated the outdoor fields where the Raiders worked Wednesday morning. His throws appeared crisp and on the money as he looked to find some sort of symmetry with receivers Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, Tre Tucker and DeAndre Carter along with rookie tight end Michael Meyer, all who figure to be primary targets of Garoppolo this year.
“Davante is so smooth. I thought I overthrew him on one pass but he ran it down and caught it,” Garoppolo said. “It’s exciting to throw to this group of guys. I’m not fully there yet, but it’s heading in the right direction. We’ll get better and better as camp goes along.”
Adams said working with a new quarterback has its challenges but with a veteran like Garoppolo, those challenges can be mitigated.
“He looks good,” Adams said. “He’s a great guy. Easy to talk to. Super coachable. We have a lot of conversations out there.
“We have a lot of things to work through. It’s timing. The ball comes out different. But it’s a good start having him here with us on the field.”
It was evident last year that the Raiders needed to move on from Carr, despite the fact they reunited him with Adams, his teammate from their college days at Fresno State. Carr and McDaniels never had that chemistry as the team struggled in going 6-11. Garoppolo obviously has a connection with the head coach and that alone makes this a step in the right direction for the Silver and Black. He will be a good leader in the locker room and those two intangibles gives him a leg up on making this work in Las Vegas.
Garoppolo said he’s getting comfortable with his new city. He was at T-Mobile Arena for the Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup run and he said he has been made to feel welcome.
“I finally got a home,” he said. “That’s a step in the right direction. But so far, Vegas has been very cool. Very friendly.”
And he’s fitting in nicely with his new team.
“Josh helped develop me into a pro,” Garoppolo said of McDaniels. “We got to sit down together after I signed and going over the offense with Josh and just working with him, it was a really cool experience.”
As Garoppolo settles in and looks to the future, the past is never far behind. Injuries have been an annual rite of passage for Jimmy G. Maybe that streak comes to an end this year. We’ll see.