HENDERSON, Nev. -- There were a lot of familiar faces flying around Jimmy Garoppolo during Thursday's joint practice between his new team, the Las Vegas Raiders, and his old team, the San Francisco 49ers, so the irony was not lost on the quarterback.
Not with the Niners defense woofing at him.
"First play, Dre [Greenlaw] was talking, got things going right away," Garoppolo said with a laugh, referencing the 49ers linebacker. "Those are my brothers. I love those guys. We had a good time out there competing."
Indeed, it was a reunion for Garoppolo, who joined the 49ers in a trade with the New England Patriots on Halloween 2017, and he was asked about his final star-crossed month-plus in Santa Clara.
After being on the trading block during the 2022 offseason, he became the starter after an injury to Trey Lance in Week 2 and led the Niners to a 7-3 record before suffering a left foot injury at the Miami Dolphins in Week 13. He would never suit up for the 49ers again, although there was speculation he would have been ready for the Super Bowl had the Niners beaten the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC title game. Instead, San Francisco lost Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson to injury in the eventual 31-7 defeat.
"It was wild, man," Garoppolo said of his last weeks in San Francisco. "I was doing my thing, trying to get my foot ready. It didn't work out how I wished it would have, but those guys going through three quarterbacks and still making it to the NFC Championship Game, I mean, that's damn impressive for a team. The Niners, you know, they've got a great team and everything. We had had a great time.
"It's on to Vegas now, but yeah, I treasure those times. Those were good times."
Garoppolo signed a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract with the Raiders on March 17 but had surgery on the foot shortly thereafter and had to sign a waiver/release in case he could not pass a physical.
That seemed to put his future in Las Vegas in peril, but he passed his physical before camp and has been on a rehab schedule with an occasional day off and shortened reps at times, having sat out all on-field work during OTAs and minicamp.
Garoppolo's play had been uneven of late as he threw a combined seven interceptions in two practices last week, before he rebounded with his sharpest practice Wednesday and looked good against the 49ers with no INTs.
"I'm just starting to get my feet under me," he said, "literally and figuratively. We're starting to find our groove here."
Raiders second-year coach Josh McDaniels, who was Garoppolo's offensive coordinator in New England, is impressed with his quarterback's on-field work despite his missing so much time.
"When it's your seventh day [of practice] since November of last year, I don't really look at it in that short of a window," McDaniels said. "Playing quarterback is a very difficult position to play and excel at, and a lot of times, especially when you're with a bunch of new people in a new scheme, coming off something that he's coming off of, I think there's just a time element, and there's no shortcut to it.
"I expect him to go out there and do his very best every day, which is what he does. He learns from every period, good or bad. I think he's got a great approach, a great attitude, a great mindset and I expect him to continue to improve."
The Raiders defense has taken notice.
"Jimmy's getting better and better and better," said Las Vegas edge rusher Maxx Crosby. "Coming off an injury, it's not going to happen overnight. Jimmy's confidence has been only growing. You've seen that today. The last two days, really.
"He's trusting himself, and that's really what it comes down to. It's a mental game. ... I'm super hyped for him."
As he did with the Niners, Garoppolo has quickly won over the Raiders' locker room, which lost a nine-year starter when Derek Carr was cut in February.
Garoppolo was asked how he has endeared himself to his new teammates.
"I think being authentic, be yourself and, you know, own it," he said. "I think that's a big part of it because we spend so much time together in there, spend more time with these guys than you do your own family. So, the guys are going to see through the fakeness. I think just being authentic, being yourself and wanting to win at the end of the day, that's what people expect."