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“I just want an opportunity to compete”: 49ers’ Trey Lance doesn’t expect to be handed anything

Feb 8, 2023 at 2:00 PM--

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After Trey Lance went down with a season-ending ankle injury during Week 2, the San Francisco 49ers kept on rolling. First with veteran Jimmy Garoppolo, and then with rookie Brock Purdy after Garoppolo suffered a broken foot in Week 13.

The 49ers rolled all the way to the NFC Championship Game, all while Lance observed, unable to do anything to help his teammates on the football field. That doesn't mean he couldn't help off the field, though.

Lance, looking for any way to help the 49ers, approached his head coach, Kyle Shanahan, and asked how he could contribute to the team's success.

"It got easier when I found my role," Lance told Rich Eisen on Wednesday in Arizona. "I went in probably a few weeks after my first surgery and just talked to Kyle and was like, 'Man, what can I do?' I started with base downs, breaking down pressures, especially once Brock started playing. It definitely picked up, which is around the time of my second surgery, right before my second surgery.

"But I needed something. I needed something to feel like I was contributing. That was the hardest thing for me was getting to that spot where I'm feeling good. I'm doing my rehab, I'm in the meetings, I'm asking the right questions, but I didn't feel like I was truly helping. A lot of time when Jimmy was playing—and obviously Jimmy's a vet, Jimmy's done it, he played at a really very high level—but once Brock took over, I feel like I needed to help.

"So whatever it was, base down pressures, third down pressures, red zone, I just tried to help as much as I could."

While Purdy lacked NFL experience, you couldn't tell that by watching him. Instead, the rookie displayed the poise and leadership of a seasoned veteran. The quarterback kept winning and was stopped only by an injury in the NFC Championship Game.

A bit lost in the amazing story of the 2022 49ers was Lance. Eisen asked Lance if Shanahan had ever pulled him aside to assure him that he was still the guy moving forward.

"It wasn't a situation, and I wouldn't want it to be that way," Lance shared. "Brock played way too well, and Brock played at such a high level and handled himself the right way. I wouldn't want it to be a situation where I'm just handed something. And I feel horrible, obviously, Brock for his injury. But for me, I truly believe everything happens for a reason. Whether it's his, he's going to be better for it. Mine, I'm going to be better for it. And I'm excited to just get on the field and compete. That's all I want an opportunity to do."

There won't be the offseason quarterback competition that most anticipated. There will be no Lance versus Purdy battles throughout organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamps. That's because Purdy will be sidelined for about six months after he undergoes surgery on February 22 to repair the tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Still, Lance sees the offseason as an opportunity to prove he can still be the starter.

"Everyone saw what Brock did," Lance said. "Brock doesn't just come in and play that well, and I just get handed something out of the blue. And I don't expect that or want that, but I truly believe, yeah, I just want an opportunity to compete. That's all I wanted going into this offseason."

The goal for Lance remains the same. He wants to being a sixth Lombardy Trophy to the 49ers organization.

"We're going to get there," Lance said confidently. "I was just with [RB] Christian [McCaffrey], actually, on the flight yesterday. … But just being able to talk about this opportunity. … I mean, we're close. We're right there, offensively, defensively. [LB] Fred Warner is the most intense human being I've ever been around, and I can't wait to just kick his butt during training camp."

Lance admitted that he was (somewhat) joking about Warner there before continuing, "I mean, this roster is ready to go. Coaching staff is ready to go. … But, yeah, this is what it's all about, at the end of the day. I listened to it every week this year, talking about the ultimate goal, where we're trying to get to, and I'm just excited to be a part of it this year."

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