SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Whether San Francisco 49ers rookie Trey Lance takes over as the starting quarterback this year is still to be determined. Regardless, he's going to be on the field in some capacity.
If that hadn't already been made clear by the number of Lance-specific run plays the Niners have installed in the first week-plus of training camp, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan removed all doubt with his comments after Friday's practice.
"Trey is going to play for us this year," Shanahan said. "I know you guys are all running to Twitter with that. But situationally, he's going to get plays. That doesn't mean he's going to be the starter or anything. He's going to get plays. You have got to prepare him for that in every way possible."
For Lance, that preparation has been an ongoing process in his first NFL training camp. Even with putting pads on this week for the first time in more than 300 days, Lance has looked comfortable operating from the pocket on passing plays while providing a running element that is unique to him among San Francisco's quarterbacks.
Many of the designed zone-read and read-option plays that Shanahan has dialed up for Lance were already in the playbook but mostly collected dust over the past four seasons because the Niners haven't employed a quarterback with Lance's running ability.
But with him in the fold, Shanahan has been able to start the process of getting him up to speed on some of those run-pass options that could present a different challenge for defenses from current starter Jimmy Garoppolo.
Shanahan likened the different plays for his quarterbacks to a group of wide receivers with varying abilities.
"I know it's different, but when you have quarterbacks with different skill sets, it kind of makes it easier for me to look at it similar to other positions," Shanahan said. "That's why I don't think it's a problem on our team, and it's not a problem in there when we're discussing what we're going to do."
Which could eventually lead to a scenario in which Garoppolo is the starter but Lance is deployed in spots like the red zone or short-yardage situations, forcing the defense to account for his running ability while offering the threat of passing. It would be similar to what the New Orleans Saints have done in the past with Drew Brees and Taysom Hill but without splitting Lance as a receiver and with more ability to deploy Lance as a passer.
Of course, there remains the possibility that Lance could win the starting job outright. To this point, Shanahan has stuck to the initial plan of running Garoppolo with the starters and Lance with the second-team offense.
Through eight practices, Lance has taken one snap with the first-string offense, a designed run that is in the playbook specifically for Lance and that Shanahan wanted each group of offensive linemen to get a rep with in team drills.
That figures to change at some point so Lance can at least get some extended work with the top offensive line. For what it's worth, the Niners rotate through the other skill positions with each group during an average practice.
"Trey will get reps with the 1s," Shanahan said. "That doesn't mean the competition is open. It just means I want him to get some reps with the [No. 1] O-line."
Lance has impressed teammates and coaches with his performance in training camp. He's been efficient and mostly accurate working from the pocket in team drills and showcased the running ability Shanahan is hoping to tap into.
There have also been some rookie struggles. On Friday, Lance had two botched exchanges with running back Wayne Gallman that turned into fumbles, one of which was near his own end zone, and he also has had bouts of inaccuracy, throwing high to some open receivers.
Perhaps most important, Lance has had no issues grasping the offense and translating that to the field.
"He really is really comfortable in his own skin," offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel said. "And he's getting to the point where he can correct other players, which from a coach's perspective is all you're looking for. You want a coach on the field. The person that a receiver is going to listen to, much more than a coach, is the guy that's throwing him the ball. So he's been very good with that, and I think a lot of the guys respond to that."
Lance and the 49ers are set to open their preseason schedule on Aug. 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs and will follow with joint practices with the Los Angeles Chargers on Aug. 19-20 before playing the Chargers in their second exhibition contest.
How much Lance plays in those games is to be determined, but he will be involved and have a chance to bolster his case to turn the current quarterback situation into a competition.