Jim Dedmon/Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Dedmon/Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Breer: 49ers offseason a ‘golden opportunity’ for Trey Lance, Sam Darnold

May 17, 2023 at 3:00 PM--

The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of faith in last year's seventh-round draft pick, quarterback Brock Purdy. All things being equal, Purdy would be written in as the Week 1 starter—with permanent ink.

The reality is that the Niners don't know who their Week 1 starter will be. It might be Purdy, who is recovering from surgery in March to repair the tear of the ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow, an injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game. The issue is that such a surgery typically includes a six-month recovery time.

It could be shorter. It could be longer.

The situation has created an opportunity for two other quarterbacks on the roster—Trey Lance and Sam Darnold. The two will split practice reps this offseason. One could start Week 1 if Purdy isn't back by then.

"The truth is, this creates a golden opportunity for those two," Albert Breer wrote in a mailbag for Sports Illustrated. "At best, Purdy will miss a good chunk of the summer and be hustling to get back for the opener. At worst, one of the two presumed backups will start the season. Either way, the chance is there for either Darnold or Lance to put some level of doubt in the Niners' heads on who to go with at quarterback, and also create some buzz that could generate outside interest in 2024."

Purdy will begin throwing footballs again next month. The 49ers won't have a clearer picture of his status until then. The good news is that there have been no setbacks in the quarterback's recovery.

Purdy has been with his teammates since the 49ers started their offseason program a month ago. They will begin organized team activities (OTAs) next week.

"As long as Brock's elbow heals right, he'll be the exact same guy," head coach Kyle Shanahan said last week. "And when you have a clean break like that or tear, it will be. You can have a setback, and you can have something heal wrong, but everything's been completely on pace.

"And just watching him now, he's doing the same drills all the other quarterbacks are doing. He's just using a towel to throw, but still doing violent motion, still moving it. He's just not doing with the football. He'll get closer to that, and as long as there's not a setback, we think he'll be there in training camp."

Training camp begins at the end of July and runs through August, so there is a chance that Purdy could be back sometime before the end of camp. In the meantime, can Lance or Darnold do anything to climb the depth chart?

Breer added, "And I say all that with the acknowledgment that the Niners love Purdy, and view him as more than a plucky seventh-round pick who helped them in a bind last year—which means it'll be an interesting spring and summer in Santa Clara, regardless of how this plays out."
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