The San Francisco 49ers will enter training camp with Trey Lance, Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold all viable options to start games in 2023. While Purdy is the favorite, he might not be involved in the quarterback battle until much later than expected.
Purdy suffered a torn UCL in his elbow during the NFC Championship Game. After a promising rookie season, the 23-year-old quarterback needed elbow surgery. Originally, San Francisco hoped that he would be ready for training camp.
- Brock Purdy stats (2022): 67.1% completion, 13-4 TD-INT, 107.3 QB rating
While Purdy avoided Tommy John surgery, which would’ve sidelined him for the entire 2023 NFL season, the procedure on his throwing arm was delayed several weeks. As a result, San Francisco’s early timetable for his return to the field was delayed.
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A day after 49ers’ general manager John Lynch said Purdy ‘earned the right’ to start, head coach Kyle Shanahan admitted it will be Darnold and Lance splitting first-team reps this offseason. He also acknowledged that Lance could “regain” the starting job, especially with greater uncertainty regarding when Purdy can return.
Speaking to reporters, Shanahan said there is no specific timeline for Purdy’s return. There will be more information on his prognosis in three months, but he left the door open for the projected started to not return until after Week 1.
The increasingly vague details around when Purdy will recover are a bit concerning for a Super Bowl contender. Reports on the 49ers’ confidence in Lance aren’t positive, with a growing belief that he isn’t nearly as developed as the franchise hoped to this point in his career.
- Brock Purdy contract: $889,252 cap hit (’23), $1.004M cap hit (’24), $1.119M cap hit (’25)
It leaves the door open for Darnold, who showed promise late in the 2022 season with the Carolina Panthers. From Weeks 12-16, Darnold posted a 105.4 passer rating with a 7-1 TD-INT line, 61.6 percent completion rate and 1,100 passing yards in five games.
While Purdy might eventually resume his role as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, there are no guarantees he’ll be as effective post-surgery. Factoring in the risks and the possibility of a longer recovery timeline, San Francisco appears poised to rely on Darnold and Lance this summer and potentially during the regular season.