Coach Kyle Shanahan knows that in the big picture, it won’t matter how well Trey Lance plays in his exhibition debut for the San Francisco 49ers.
That doesn’t dampen Shanahan’s excitement to see his rookie first-round quarterback take the field in a game for the first time Saturday night when the Niners host the Kansas City Chiefs in an exhibition game.
“It’s fun to watch quarterbacks go out there for the first time,” Shanahan said Thursday. “But I don’t get nervous for the person or anything like that. It’s fun to watch. I know no one’s going to remember how his first preseason game is, but they will the next day. That’s all right. I know rookies get some butterflies. It is a big deal for them. But the reality of it is it is an experience for them. I think Trey is going to make the team so he doesn’t have to go out there and just freak out about that. But he knows a lot of eyes will be on him.”
A lot of eyes have been on Lance ever since the 49ers drafted him in April after trading three first-round picks for the No. 3 selection.
San Francisco is working Lance in gradually behind starter Jimmy Garoppolo but the rookie has impressed during training camp.
But there are some things he can’t truly experience until game action, like how to deal with getting the play call from the sideline in a loud stadium and how to make the decision about when to slide, dive headfirst, go out of bounds or take a hit when scrambling.
Shanahan wants Lance to stay on his feet on scrambles in practice to avoid any chance of an injury but drills him afterward on what he would have done in a real game. He’s been pleased with the answers so far but now gets to see it for real.
“That’s something that we’ll all see in the game,” he said. “Trey says the right things, he’s a pretty good runner, he’s pretty competitive. I hope he takes my word for it. Sometimes those guys don’t believe how hard people hit until they get a couple of times in the NFL.”
The preseason may be more important for Lance because of how little experience he had in college. He started only 17 games at FCS-level North Dakota State and played only one game in a COVID-shortened 2020 season.
His last game with fans in the stadium came more than 19 months ago against James Madison in the FCS title game for the 2019 season.
That only adds to his level of anticipation for this game.
“Excited to go out and compete with this locker room of guys,” he said. “Everything’s new, so just being able to get used to everything, everything from the hotel the night before the game to pregame warmup. Everything’s going to be new, but at the same time football is football.”
The 49ers have been very pleased with what they have seen from Lance so far, reinforcing their strong belief in him from the draft process.
He has shown off the strong arm and athleticism that were evident on game film, as well as surprising maturity for someone who didn’t turn 21 until May.
“The first time we talked to him we were going to offer him a beer then I realized I’d be supplying a minor and we definitely didn’t,” Shanahan said. “You forget about it. He’s mature. He doesn’t look like a 21-year-old, except maybe in his face. But he definitely acts a lot more wise than I was when I was 21.”
NOTES: Shanahan said he will hold several players out of the game, including DE Nick Bosa, DE Dee Ford and WR Jalen Hurd, who are working their way back from season-ending injuries in 2020. … CB K’Waun Williams (hip) and DE Arden Key (quadriceps) missed practice and are day to day.
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