Justin Pugh Touts Lamont Gaillard as MVP of 49ers Game

Howard Balzer

When the Cardinals hit the practice field Wednesday to begin preparation for Sunday’s game against the Washington Football Team, it could be with Lamont Gaillard getting first-team reps at center.

Usual starter Mason Cole suffered an apparent hamstring injury in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over San Francisco and he was walking gingerly on the sideline afterward.

Gaillard played 46 snaps to Cole’s 36 and was on the field during the team’s 14-point fourth quarter that won the game.

Playing to Gaillard’s immediate left is guard Justin Pugh, who was effusive in his praise for the second-year player’s performance.

“He came in and didn’t miss a beat,” Pugh said Tuesday. “He enabled us to win that game. I think he should get the MVP of the game honors just for stepping in. That was his first game even dressing I'm pretty sure. You’re not expecting as a backup — obviously, we always say, ‘Hey, you've got to be ready, you've got to be ready.’ (But) I don't think any of us thought Lamont would see time at center during this game.

“He stepped in and played unbelievable. I couldn't be more proud of him. And we have a lot to build. We got another great d-line this week and we have our work cut out for us.”

In actuality, Gaillard dressed for two of 16 games last season (he was inactive for the other 14), but didn’t play in either game. Now, depending on Cole’s status, it’s possible he will make his first NFL start against a very good interior that Pugh said is deeper than the 49ers.

Pugh said, “I was able to watch that game against Philadelphia. Obviously, Philadelphia’s offensive line is banged up with some injuries. But the tape does not take away from what the Washington d-line did. They have eight guys that can get after the quarterback and they're relentless. We have to match their effort and San Fran is a very similar style.

“Across the board, I think Washington's a little deeper on the interior. We have our work cut out for us and I'm looking forward to the challenge and getting out there and playing a game in our home stadium. We're going to miss the fans, but to be at home for a game is going to be nice.”

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