By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — After losing his season to a torn ACL, Jimmy Garoppolo returned to the football field on Monday night, as he enters a make-or-break year with the San Francisco 49ers. Though the team handed Garoppolo a massive contract two years ago, the Niners could release Garoppolo after this season without taking on too much of a dent in their salary cap if they deem Garoppolo unworthy of the final three years of his deal.

While it’s far too soon to make any prognostications on that front, Garoppolo certainly took a rough first step in dipping his toe back into the NFL water.

The quarterbacks started in San Francisco’s second preseason game on Monday night in Denver, and his final stat line was something of an impossibility: Garoppolo went 1-for-6 with zero passing yards and an interception.

That pick came in the first quarter, when Garoppolo was pressured up the middle and tried to rush a throw to a spot where both Marquise Goodwin and running back Matt Breida were running routes. Isaac Yiadom stepped in front of the pass for an easy interception.

Garoppolo’s first pass of the night was batted down at the line of scrimmage by Shelby Harris, who also tipped Garoppolo’s third pass of the night.

Garoppolo’s fourth pass of the night should have been intercepted, too, but De’Vante Bausby dropped the pass that hit him in the midsection.

Garoppolo’s fifth pass was just a misfire, as he missed Kaden Smith on a simple hitch route.

Garoppolo finally completed a pass on his sixth attempt — a quick screen pass behind the line of scrimmage to Breida that went for zero yards.

That would be Garoppolo’s final pass attempt of the evening, as he was replaced by C.J. Beathard.

“It’s something I haven’t done in a year, obviously, so I’ve gotta knock the rust off and everything,” Garoppolo said. “It’s the first step of getting back into it.”

As far as positives go, Garoppolo seemed pleased that his knee — which he tore in Week 3 last season — was not on his mind while playing on Monday.

“Honestly, really wasn’t thinking about it out there,” Garoppolo said of the surgically repaired knee. “So I’m happy about that. Just in general, it didn’t bother me too much.”

Obviously, it’s only the preseason, and the first foray into professional football after suffering a torn knee can be tough. Likewise, though the headlines were ugly when Garoppolo threw interceptions on five consecutive passes during a practice last week, it was merely practice.

Still, considering Garoppolo only has 11 touchdowns to eight interceptions as the starting quarterback of the 49ers, he’s going to have to take a major step forward this season if he wants to earn the rest of that megadeal. He’ll get one more chance to get back on track on Saturday night in Kansas City, before the real games begin in a few weeks.

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