SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Late in the San Francisco 49ers' final minicamp practice, coach Kyle Shanahan wanted quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to take a rep or two against a full 11-man defense for the first time since tearing the ACL in his left knee on Sept. 23, 2018.
Shanahan's instructions for the defensive line were clear, or so he thought: Stand still, put your hands up and do not touch Garoppolo.
"The animals that they are, why we love them, they couldn't help it," said Shanahan of a defense that moved toward Garoppolo. "I saw it, so I stopped it. I wasn't going to mess with it."
No damage was done, and soon enough, all sides were laughing at the quickly aborted rep.
"I liked it, after I got over it," Shanahan said.
Garoppolo has not yet been cleared for full contact and was kept out of team drills for the offseason program, though he participated in 7-on-7 and individual drills.
But Garoppolo has mostly moved past the rehabilitation stages of his recovery and is focused on playing at a high level once he is fully cleared. To that end, Garoppolo is turning this summer to Tom House -- one of the NFL's most well-known quarterback whisperers -- and the staff at 3DQB at their quarterback academy in Huntington Beach, California.
In his short time working with Garoppolo, House has already been impressed by what he's seen. Garoppolo checks many of the same boxes as the big-name quarterbacks with whom House has worked in the past -- Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are just a handful of the star signal-callers who have spent time under House's tutelage.
House, who began working with quarterbacks in 2006, when Brees was rehabbing his dislocated right shoulder, said Garoppolo is as humble and hungry for success as those other star quarterbacks, which makes his job much easier.
"When he shows up, you know what you're going to get," House said.
Over the next month-plus, Garoppolo will work with House, 3DQB CEO Adam Dedeaux, motion mechanics instructor John Beck and motion performance expert Taylor Kelly on everything from fundamental throwing mechanics to nutrition and sleep.
Some of Garoppolo's pass-catching teammates will join him for training sessions (though Garoppolo wouldn't name names), which also provides an opportunity to stay on top of specific Niners plays and concepts.
"During these 40 days, you do so many different things, physical, mental," Garoppolo said. "You're trying to recover at the same time [as] getting ready for training camp. I think just having the timing of the offense down, being in rhythm with the receivers that I'll work with and everything, and just getting comfortable. It's been a little while since I've been in 11-on-11 football, so just getting as comfortable as I can as quickly as I can."
Garoppolo and House hadn't worked together before this offseason, but they met each other when Garoppolo was in New England because of House's long-standing relationship with Brady.
As Garoppolo approached his rehab this offseason, he went in search of someone to help him balance his rehabilitation while also fine-tuning his performance. Agent Don Yee, who represents Garoppolo and Brady, connected Garoppolo to House.
Garoppolo got his first taste of working with House & Co. before the Niners began their offseason program in April. At the time, he was still being eased in. The team managed the amount of repetitions he took and tweaked the intensity some to ensure that he wasn't pushing too hard, too fast.
Because Garoppolo is further along now, the workload intensity will ramp up this summer.
"As the performance part of the rehab, we are working in lockstep with the medical rehab," House said. "We just make sure to coordinate accordingly. You don't want to undo anything the medical has done, and you don't want to overdo anything on the performance side. When you've got a guy like Jimmy -- and I had met him and got to know him a little bit when he was with the Patriots -- and obviously he gets along really well with the young coaches on our staff, so it was a good fit in both directions."
Although House politely declined to talk about the specifics of what he has planned for Garoppolo, he did offer some insight into how he and the other coaches at 3DQB handle a quarterback coming off a serious injury.
A typical week for quarterbacks working with House and the 3DQB staff includes five sessions spread out over the course of seven days. Each session lasts three hours.
Those sessions aren't limited to simple throwing mechanics or drills, either. House, 72, is constantly learning and evaluating new technology to find better and more in-depth methods to study the biomechanics of throwing frame by frame.
For Garoppolo, the next month and a half will be every bit as important as the time that preceded it. This season will be a big one for Garoppolo, who signed a five-year, $137.5 million deal in February 2018 but appeared in just three games before the ACL injury ended his season.
Slowly but surely, Garoppolo has progressed, and the Niners are confident he will be ready to go at the start of training camp.
Now, it's about getting ready for what will happen when Shanahan can't blow a whistle to stop the pass rush.
"I think all of that will come with time," Garoppolo said. "I'll try to implement as many drills as I can during these 40 days or so. But, I think once until the bullets start flying and everything, then we'll really see."