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Reports: Sam Darnold winning 49ers QB derby

Jan 8, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) drops back to pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Darnold could be the surprise winner of the ongoing quarterback derby in San Francisco, ESPN reported Tuesday.

Though organized team activities are just beginning with minicamp and training camp ahead, Darnold is reportedly distancing himself from Trey Lance. The status of Brock Purdy is fluid as he recovers from offseason elbow surgery.

Darnold is making a “push” to start with Purdy’s recovery up in the air, ESPN reported. Darnold signed a one-year deal with the team on the same day Jimmy Garoppolo agreed to terms with the Las Vegas Raiders.

That Darnold could be competing to start mirrors sentiment shared by 49ers radio play-by-play announcer Greg Papa on Monday.

“If Sam Darnold gets a chance to play, he could be Brock Purdy of 2023,” Papa said.

Darnold and running back Christian McCaffrey were teammates at Carolina in 2021 and for six games last season.

What’s not clear: where Lance stands with the 49ers.

San Francisco GM John Lynch dubbed rumors of trade talks involving Lance as “a lot of smoke,” and added the team expects to keep him.

Lance was the starter to open the 2022 season. He needed two surgeries on his right ankle in a span of three months — one in late December to remove surgically implanted hardware inhibiting his movement — and has played eight games in the past three years. That includes going 2-2 as a starter for the 49ers while completing 54.9 percent of his career NFL passes, with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

“We are focused on his ability to compete and play an integral role on this team,” Lynch said of Lance last month.

Darnold lost a competition with Baker Mayfield to start for the Carolina Panthers in 2022 and was on the shelf with an ankle injury most of last season. He was traded to the Panthers from the New York Jets.

Darnold started six games in 2022 upon his return from injury, throwing for 1,143 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

In 56 career games (55 starts) with the Panthers and Jets, Darnold has thrown for 11,767 yards, 61 touchdowns and 55 interceptions. He has also scored 12 rushing touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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