49ers optimist Brock Purdy will be ready for the inaugural season

Nick WagnerESPN staff writerMay 23, 2023, 07:17 PM ET4 minutes to read

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — According to San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, God only knows for sure when quarterback Brock Purdy will be completely cleared to return to football.

But that didn’t stop Shanahan from giving Purdy his most optimistic update yet when he spoke to the Bay Area media after the team’s organized activities on Tuesday.

“We’re hopeful in the first week and feel very optimistic about that,” Shanahan said. “That’s what we’re hoping for… Normally you have to come back before that to achieve that goal and that’s the kind of goal we’re hoping for and we don’t have any reason to think differently.”

Purdy had a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and was repaired on March 10 after sustaining the injury in the NFC Championship game on January 29. Initial estimates of the schedule were five to seven months, but the Niners have all along maintained that they’ll get a better idea of ​​a return date once Purdy begins a throwing program at the 12-week mark.

Purdy will reach 12 weeks on June 2 and is progressing as hoped. Shanahan said Tuesday that Purdy is expected to begin the throwing plan next week.

Purdy, for his part, still didn’t want to set any hard-and-fast deadline for a comeback, but he echoed Shanahan’s optimism.

“The arm feels good,” Purdy said. “To say I’ll be ready by this time or this time, we’re not trying to sort out any kind of schedule like that. Certainly, though, that’s a goal to be ready for the season and if that’s the case great. But like I said, we’re staying day to day.” One at a time and we don’t want to say anything we’ll regret in the future.”

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Most of Purdy’s rehabilitation up to this point has been limited to flexion and range of motion exercises plus plyometrics. Limit “throwing” it to a simulated motion with a towel. Once the throwing program begins, he’ll be able to start working his way toward throwing a full-sized NFL football again from various distances and at different effort levels.

Purdy said that once the Niners complete his offseason program in mid-June, he expects to continue his pitching and rehabilitation program in Jacksonville, Florida, with his personal coaches at quarterback.

Despite an offseason vote of confidence from General Manager John Lynch where Lynch called Purdy the “leader on the club” to be the team’s starter in 2023, the quarterback isn’t getting ahead of himself as he continues to recover.

“I’m just trying to focus on where I am right now,” Purdy said. “For me, it’s more about the health of my arms. To say all these things and say you want to be this kind of guy or that kind of guy for the team, I think it’s kind of foolish to think that way… I’m not trying to get caught up in the rumors and what he was saying.” People or anything like that, but the fact that he would say that, yeah, sure I’m grateful.”

Purdy wasn’t the only 49ers player to spend the offseason trying to head off rumors and speculation. Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, has been working his way up from a broken right ankle and trying to restore his throwing mechanics to the status quo after also dealing with the fallout from a broken right index finger. He struggled early in his rookie year.

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With Birdie’s rise to the top job, Lance’s name came up in trade talks Lynch had with other overseas teams. Lynch said he did not initiate those discussions and conceded that he would have had a great offer for the 49ers to trade Lance, especially given the team’s long history of injuries at the position.

Even after signing San Francisco veteran Sam Darnold to a one-year deal early in free agency, Lance said he never considered asking for a new opportunity elsewhere.

“I knew where I wanted to be,” Lance said. “Even going back, like I said last year, I just want a chance to compete. For me, I love it here. I love the coaching staff, I love the midfield, I love the players in the dressing room. No doubt for me, that’s where I want to be.” I’m totally in it.”

While Purdy continues on the road to recovery, the Niners opened the OTAs this week with Lance getting the first shots during a 7-on-7 drill with Darnold running back behind him. But as Shanahan quickly pointed out, these workouts are different from team workouts, and he intends to get even with those reps as the off-season program continues.

Until Purdy is cleared, the Niners’ quarterback numbers remain cloudy but there’s plenty of time for Lance and Darnold to make an impression in the coming days, weeks and months.

“I think competition is great for everyone,” Darnold said. “Obviously, we have some competition in the midfield… It’s always great to be able to go out there and compete and we’ll do that.”

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