Kyle Shanahan has done his best to downplay the possibility of first-round pick Trey Lance opening 2021 as the 49ers' starting quarterback. The coach said going into training camp that San Francisco was not hosting an "open competition" at the position, then said after the start of practice that he'd be "very surprised" if incumbent Jimmy Garoppolo isn't under center in Week 1. Days later, however, he's confirmed to reporters that he plans to give Lance reps as the first-team QB. Shanahan again refused to declare the spot open for competition, but his actions suggest the rookie is, in fact, vying for Garoppolo's job.
"Trey's going to play for us this year," Shanahan said, per NFL.com. "Situationally, he's going to get plays. That doesn't mean that he's going to be the starter or anything, but he's going to get plays and you've got to prepare him for that every way possible."
It's possible -- even probable -- that Lance will get his own package in the event Garoppolo actually opens the season as the starting QB; the former was a highly touted prospect coming out of North Dakota State in part due to his running ability. But Shanahan and Co. have previously made clear that they didn't make such a big investment in Lance to be merely a situational player. He was drafted to eventually take over as the QB and face of the franchise, and getting first-team reps at camp is a small but notable step toward that.
It's also notable that just days before announcing plans to rotate Lance into No. 1 QB reps, Shanahan told reporters he didn't "currently have plans" to do just that. One explanation is that Lance's performance in camp has progressed to the point of warranting more snaps. Another is that Shanahan is simply massaging his way through an inevitable changing of the guard at the position. Either way, all indications are that Lance will be on the field in some fashion or another once the season begins.
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