Nick WagonerESPN Writer4 minute read
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — According to San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, only God knows for sure when quarterback Brock Purdy will be fully cleared to return to football.
But that didn’t stop Shanahan from offering his most upbeat Purdy update yet when he spoke to Bay Area media following Tuesday’s team activities.
“We’re hoping for Week 1 and we’re pretty optimistic about that,” Shanahan said. “That’s what we’re hoping for. … Usually you have to come back before that to achieve that goal and that’s kind of the goal we’re hoping for and we have no reason to think any differently.”
Purdy had the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow repaired on March 10 after sustaining the injury in the NFC Championship Game on January 29. Initial estimates for a schedule were five to seven months, but the Niners have always maintained they will have a better idea of a return date once Purdy begins a pitching schedule at the 12-week mark.
Purdy will reach 12 weeks on June 2 and is progressing as planned. Shanahan said Tuesday that Purdy is expected to begin the launch plan next week.
For his part, Purdy still doesn’t want to put a hard and fast deadline on a comeback, but he echoed Shanahan’s optimism.
“Arm feels good,” Purdy said. “To say I’m going to be ready by this time or that hour, we’re not trying to label some kind of timeline like that. Of course, though, it’s a goal to want to be ready for the season. and if so, great.. But like I said, we’re just staying one day at a time and we don’t want to say anything we regret later.
So far, most of Purdy’s rehabilitation has been limited to flexion and range-of-motion exercises as well as plyometrics. His “throw” was limited to a simulated motion using a towel. Once he starts the throwing program, he can go back to throwing a full-size NFL football at different distances and at different levels of effort.
Purdy said once the Niners complete their offseason program in mid-June, he plans to continue his rehab program and pitch in Jacksonville, Fla., with his personal quarterback coaches.
Despite an offseason vote of confidence from general manager John Lynch in which Lynch called Purdy “the leader of the clubhouse” to be the team’s starter in 2023, the quarterback isn’t taking a lead so may he continue to recover.
“I’m just trying to focus on where I am right now,” Purdy said. “For me it’s the health of my arm. Saying all these things and saying you want to be that kind of guy or that kind of guy for the team, I think it’s just in a crazy sense to think like that. … I’m not trying to get caught up in the rumors and what people were saying or anything like that, but him saying that, yeah, I sure appreciate it.”
Purdy wasn’t the only 49ers quarterback to have spent the offseason trying to avoid rumors and speculation. Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, worked his way up after a broken right ankle and tried to get his throwing mechanics back to status quo after also dealing with the fallout of a broken right index finger he suffered early in his freshman year.
With Purdy’s rise to the starting job, Lance’s name popped up in the trade conversations Lynch had with other teams during the offseason. Lynch said he did not initiate those discussions and acknowledged that it would have taken a substantial offer for the 49ers to trade Lance, especially given the team’s long injury history in that position.
Even after San Francisco signed veteran Sam Darnold to a one-year contract at the start of free agency, Lance said he never considered seeking a new opportunity elsewhere.
“I knew where I wanted to be,” Lance said. “Even coming back, like I said last year, I just want an opportunity to compete. For me, I love it here. I love the coaching staff, I love the quarter room- back, I like the guys in the dressing room. Without a doubt for me, that’s absolutely where I want to be.”
As Purdy continues on the road to recovery, the Niners opened OTAs this week with Lance getting the first shots in 7-on-7 drills with Darnold behind him. But as Shanahan was quick to point out, these drills are different from team drills and he intends for these reps to balance out as the offseason schedule moves forward.
Until Purdy is cleared, the Niners quarterback’s situation should remain murky, but Lance and Darnold have plenty of time to make an impression in the days, weeks and months ahead.
“I think competition is good for everyone,” Darnold said. “Obviously we have competition in the quarter room. … It’s always great to be able to go out there and compete and we’re going to do that.”