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San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo bounces back with hometown win in Chicago

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CHICAGO — Entering Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, it was fair to wonder if Jimmy Garoppolo was making his final start as the San Francisco 49ers quarterback in the same place he made his first one: his hometown of Chicago.

With the Niners in the midst of a four-game losing streak and rookie quarterback Trey Lance back from a sprained left knee, another loss combined with struggles from Garoppolo could have led to Lance stepping into the lineup sometime soon, perhaps even next week.

Instead, in front of more than 100 friends and family from the Chicago area where he grew up, Garoppolo put together perhaps his best overall performance of the season and the Niners improved to 3-4 with a 33-22 victory at Soldier Field.

“It means a lot,” Garoppolo said. “Every game does but coming back to your hometown, home city it just carries a little different feel to it. Just landing at the airport, pulling into the city, all the familiarity, all that good stuff, it’s just a special feeling. It’s a good day.”

Not only was it a good day, it was a needed day for Garoppolo coming off last week’s struggles in a rain-soaked loss to the Indianapolis Colts. After some early drops from his receivers, Garoppolo hit receiver Deebo Samuel for a 50-yard strike to set up a field goal just before halftime.

That completion seemed to loosen things up as Garoppolo went on to finish 17-of-28 for 322 yards with no interceptions for a passer rating of 100.6. He added a pair of rushing touchdowns, the first game in his career with multiple scores on the ground. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Garoppolo is the third player in franchise history to throw for 300 yards and run for multiple scores in a game, joining Steve Young and Jeff Garcia.

All of that came after Garoppolo’s two-interception effort in last week’s 30-18 loss to the Colts. That showing left the drumbeat for Lance growing louder, even as coach Kyle Shanahan declared Garoppolo this week’s starter on Monday.

Despite Lance’s return to the backup role, he did not log a snap against the Bears.

“I wanted to be safe with the packages for him this week,” Shanahan said. “It was his first week back so I wasn’t going to just put him in there just to run stuff like that.”

Garoppolo punctuated the first of his rushing touchdowns — a broken play that was supposed to go to Samuel — with an emphatic spike. After his second score, Garoppolo uncorked a throw into the stands, the first time he’d done that since a division-clinching win in Seattle at the end of the 2019 season.

“My college roommates were sitting in that end zone so hopefully one of them caught it,” Garoppolo said. “It was just so much emotion. I’m not used to really running them in like that to begin with, so when it does happen, it was pretty cool.”

For all of those efforts, Shanahan awarded Garoppolo a game ball, a move that drew loud cheers from a joyous Niners locker room.

“Just coming back home in front of his fans, his back was against the wall just like everybody else in our building but for him to step up and play the way he did today, I thought was huge,” Shanahan said.

That wasn’t the only game ball Shanahan doled out Sunday. The other went to someone else who made an even more important delivery on Saturday night: punter Mitch Wishnowsky’s wife, Maddie, who gave birth to the couple’s first child in northern California.

“I gave one to Maddie because I heard she was very tough,” Shanahan said. “And we kept checking in on them, he was saying he couldn’t eat, he was throwing up, he was so nervous so he didn’t get one, she got one.”

After the birth of his daughter, Wishnowsky flew to Chicago on Sunday morning, arriving around 7 a.m. Coincidentally, Wishnowsky’s services weren’t even required as the Niners didn’t punt all game. Wishnowsky did, however, handle his usual holding duties.

“Poor Mitch had to fly all the way out here and just hold balls for field goals,” center Alex Mack said, laughing.

Alas, not all of the news from Sunday’s game was happy for the 49ers. Free safety Jimmie Ward departed in the fourth quarter with a strained quadriceps that could keep him out for a bit.

“It’s a pretty big concern,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know yet but when you talk about pulling a quad, it’s very similar to pulling a hamstring, so we’ll see if that’s the case.”

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Potential No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft, skip Oregon Ducks’ bowl game

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Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is declaring for the NFL draft, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Thibodeaux will not play in the Ducks’ bowl game, a matchup against No. 16 Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and instead will start preparing for the draft, sources said.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Thibodeaux rated No. 1 overall in his latest Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 2-rated prospect in this year’s draft class.

The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year after arriving at Oregon as the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2019. He played 10 games this season — an ankle injury slowed him up early — and finished with seven sacks and 49 total tackles.

Thibodeaux was also at the forefront of players’ ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. He signed a handful of deals, including one with Ebay, another with United Airlines and a six-figure memorabilia deal. He also released an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight and sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield that sold for $100 per unit. In September, he launched his own cryptocurrency called $JREAM.

Thibodeaux’s early exit came on the same day Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head-coaching position at Miami.

Information from ESPN’s Paolo Uggetti was used in this report.

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New York Giants QB Daniel Jones (neck) unlikely to play vs. Los Angeles Chargers, sources say

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After further visits with team doctors and specialists to have his neck injury evaluated, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones missed Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was injured the previous week in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants (4-8) remain hopeful he won’t miss much more time and will return this season.

Mike Glennon started in Jones’ place on Sunday, but was diagnosed with a concussion after the contest. That puts newly acquired quarterback Jake Fromm potentially in line to start against the Chargers. It only adds to questions about whether Jones has done enough in his first three professional seasons to convince the Giants — and potentially a new general manager — that he is a true franchise quarterback they should build around.

Fromm, a University of Georgia standout, was signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad last week. He has never played in an NFL game and could be making his first start 11 days after joining the team.

“It’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s next man up. Jake is getting his opportunity,” said Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was also his teammate at Georgia. “I’m excited for him to get his chance. But like I said, next man up, and we’re doing everything to help him.”

The Giants also have former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on their practice squad. He seems to have been immediately jumped by Fromm on the depth chart.

Judge said that Fromm would be next in line this week at practice with Jones and Glennon sidelined. The Giants might still add additional contingencies.

“We’re talking internally about a lot of options personnel-wise to see what we can do and build in depth for a multitude of reasons,” coach Joe Judge said.

Judge said after the game in Miami that Glennon would remain the starter if healthy while Jones remained sidelined. But Glennon’s status is in doubt and might not be decided until late this week.

He’s currently in the concussion protocol.

“The optimistic view would be to have [Glennon] ready for the game on Sunday,” Judge said during a Monday afternoon conference call from Arizona, where the Giants are practicing this week.

New York is also dealing with COVID-19 issues. Offensive lineman Wes Martin and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski tested positive on Monday, per Judge.

Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday afternoon. Schuplinski was involved in meetings virtually throughout the day as the Giants try to get Fromm coached up quickly for a potential start.

Having Fromm start would provide some limitations.

“For a guy who has only been in your system for a couple days, you have to go ahead and select more of a menu what he can operate with in a game,” Judge said. “That is not always based on what he’s capable of with his ability, it’s just based on being new in a scheme and system and what he’s comfortable going out there and playing aggressively and making the right decisions within.”

Fromm has crammed hard since joining the Giants. He stayed after practice on Friday last week and did extra work with Jones there to provide input.

The fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills last year has made a positive first impression.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s demonstrated that already,” Judge said. “He has very good poise out there and he has a very good presence. Once thing that is very impressive about this guy is you talk to former teammates of his, like we did before he got in here, most of those Georgia guys, and every single one lit up and said we’d absolutely love to have that guy on the team.”

The bar won’t be especially high. The Giants failed to score a touchdown on Sunday in Miami. They have one touchdown in the two games since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired.

Glennon went 23-of-44 for 187 yards with an interception against the Dolphins.

Jones has completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

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New Orleans Saints WR Deonte Harris suspended three games; DE Cameron Jordan put on COVID-19 list

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METAIRIE, La. — The hits keep coming for one of the NFL’s most depleted rosters.

New Orleans Saints receiver/kick returner Deonte Harris was officially suspended three games Monday for a summer DUI arrest after his appeal was unsuccessful. And defensive end Cameron Jordan was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list — putting one of the NFL’s longest iron man streaks in serious jeopardy.

Jordan has played in 172 consecutive regular-season games — the longest active streak of any nonspecialist in the NFL. He will need two negative tests 24 hours apart to be able to return in time for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets. Ironically, Saints linebacker Demario Davis would replace Jordan atop that list if he can’t play. Davis has played in 156 consecutive games.

Jordan, 32, has never missed a game since being drafted in the first round in 2011. He has four sacks this season and 98.5 in his career.

The Saints (5-7) are already thin at defensive end, with fellow starter Marcus Davenport having missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and veteran backup Tanoh Kpassagnon having been placed on injured reserve last week.

Their offense has also been seriously banged up during their current five-game losing streak — though they are hoping to get at least some from the group of running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk back from knee injuries this week.

Quarterback Taysom Hill will also be playing through the pain of a mallet finger injury in his right throwing hand and a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot.

The 24-year-old Harris, a third-year pro who has taken on a bigger role on offense this year, leads the Saints with 523 receiving yards and has three long touchdowns on 31 catches.

Harris’ DUI case was resolved earlier in November when he was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. Maryland court records show that Harris pleaded not guilty but agreed to the statement of facts in the police report. According to that police report, which was obtained by NOLA.com, Harris registered a blood alcohol content of 0.246% after driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and swerving across three lanes of traffic on the interstate at 1:30 a.m.

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