Jimmy Garoppolo laments unavailability after 49ers' QB injuries vs. Eagles - NBC Sports Bay Area

“I wish I had a helmet,” Garoppolo told NBC Sports Bay Area before exiting the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field. 

The veteran quarterback then somberly walked up to Dr. John York and wife Denise, gave each a hug and expressed appreciation for everything they had done for him. As Garoppolo walked away, he told the team owners, “Everything will work out.” 

Garoppolo was very close to returning to practice the week before the NFC Championship Game, but was not progressing quite enough to join the team on the field. Even if the 31-year old had one week of practice under his belt, the likelihood that he would have been active on game day is questionable as a result of the 43-man limit of active game-day players. 

The league changed the third quarterback rule in 2010 that allowed a team to dress an additional quarterback, along with their starter and backup. If the third quarterback entered the game in the first three quarters, the other two would be prohibited from returning to the field. 

"Teams will be permitted an Active List of 45 players and an Inactive List of eight players for each regular-season and postseason game. Provided, that if a club has two quarterbacks on its 45-player Active List, a third quarterback from its Inactive List is permitted to dress for the game, but if he enters the game during the first three quarters, the other two quarterbacks are thereafter prohibited from playing."

The 49ers could have used a healthy Garoppolo on the field Sunday, but alas, he was not available. 

What the future holds for the play-caller who led the team to two NFC Championships and an appearance in Super Bowl LIV is uncertain. As Garoppolo’s journey has shown, his potential return to the organization should never be ruled out.