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Rapoport: Sam Darnold will ‘more likely than not’ be 49ers’ Week 1 starting QB

Mar 28, 2023 at 5:15 PM--


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Ah, San Francisco 49ers offseason quarterback drama. We haven't had that since … well, last offseason. If there is one thing you can count on with the Bay Area team on a yearly basis, it's quarterback drama.

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan made one thing clear over the last two days: If he were healthy, Brock Purdy would be the frontrunner to start Week 1 of the 2023 season. However, he is recovering from his March 10 surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) tear in his right elbow. That will keep him off the practice field until maybe early September.

That timeline could extend beyond September. It's just too early for the 49ers to declare when last year's rookie sensation might be full-go. The team will know more once Purdy begins throwing again sometime in June.

"It might be Week 1," Shanahan told reporters. "I think I'm hearing, at the latest, Week 4. But that's just all estimations, and we'll see what happens."

Third-year quarterback Trey Lance will split offseason reps with newcomer Sam Darnold. Lance is returning from a serious injury himself. He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in September.

The uncertainty at the team's most crucial position prompted Lynch, Shanahan, and company to sign Darnold in free agency, insulating the quarterback room should Purdy's recovery have a setback or should Lance falter.

One NFL insider believes it will likely be Darnold, not Lance, out there with the offense come Week 1.

"We do not know what Trey Lance is going to be if he continues the trajectory that he's been on," Ian Rapoport said Tuesday on NFL Network. "And I think, certainly, it seems Sam Darnold will more likely than not be the starter going into the season, but there is an opportunity for someone to step in there and start [the] first couple of games of the regular season for the 49ers."

The 49ers certainly like Darnold. They've done extensive homework on the 25-year-old quarterback going back to the 2018 NFL Draft. They considered trading for Darnold in 2021 before the New York Jets shipped him off to the Carolina Panthers.

"Sam has as good of a skill set as there is," Shanahan said. "That's why he went as the third pick in the draft. When you study his play, you can see it too. I don't think he's always been in the best situations, which is tough for quarterbacks. It's tough for all players, but it is one position, and it depends on the other ten guys around you too.

"And I think Sam has played and done some really good things in this league. [He] hasn't won a ton of games and been thrown in some situations where you're going to keep both teams in the game because you got to keep slinging that ball and give your team a chance to win. And so you don't always have the best stats, but you see the ability. And he's always had that ability since his first year in college when we started watching him, and there's no reason he can't do it."



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