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Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers’ Brock Purdy has realization while reflecting on rookie season

May 20, 2024 at 9:06 AM

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy now has a full NFL season under his belt. He entered the league as the last overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and spent much of the offseason working to make the roster, knowing he had to maximize his limited practice reps.

The 49ers saw potential in Purdy, enough to keep him on the 53-man roster—a decision that would eventually prove to be franchise-changing. After the two quarterbacks above him on the depth chart suffered injuries, Purdy was thrust into the starting lineup, leading the offense at the end of his rookie season and into the playoffs.

Speaking at the Dwight Clark Legacy Series event last week, Purdy reflected on that first NFL season, coming to an interesting realization regarding his unique experience as a rookie quarterback.

"My rookie year, I feel like there was so many different stages," Purdy told a packed audience at the California Theatre in San Jose. "There was, you get drafted last, you're trying to come in, make an impression to the coaches, trying to make the team."

Purdy did make the team, spending much of the early part of the season as the scout-team quarterback, steadily impressing his teammates.

"Going against him in practice," linebacker Fred Warner said last offseason, "you get guys who are the scout team quarterback, and they understand their role and are just like, 'All right, I'm just going to go out here kind of just, whatever, do my thing or just do whatever I need to do.' Like, Brock's mindset was I'm trying to ball. I'm trying to make myself better by going against the top defense.

"It wasn't just a matter of I'm just going to go out here and tell them to do whatever they need me to do. Read the card. He's legit trying to get better. He's trying to dice us up, and he [did that], here and there. You saw the ability in terms of there's weeks where he's playing like a running quarterback, and he had some wheels. He had the shiftiness and could do the little half-step. So we saw that in practice all the time, and I'm like, 'He's got something to him. You know, the it factor.'"

Purdy was elevated to second on the depth chart after Trey Lance was injured. Then, Jimmy Garoppolo's Week 13 injury thrust the rookie into the starting lineup, where he looked like a seasoned veteran, unfazed by the pressures of facing an NFL defense for the first time in a regular-season game.

Purdy started the next five regular-season games and then three postseason contests.

"It felt like a whole other season, so it was just from one stage to the next," Purdy continued. "It was probably the longest year of my life, to be honest. It was a great year, just in terms of learning all the different roles: Trying to make the team. How can I be a great backup and serve Jimmy and Trey? To then getting thrown in and having to win and start.

"And so I learned all three different stages in under six months. So a crazy year, but was thankful to learn a lot of things from that. And I think it set up my second year in the league."

While a lot was happening around him, Purdy remained focused on doing everything he could to help the talented team continue winning football games. The opportunity to start for one of the most iconic franchises in all of sports had not yet hit him.

"I think going into my second year is when the thoughts of, man, I'm starting for the San Francisco 49ers," Purdy remarked. "And then you got the standard that Joe [Montana] and Steve [Young] set, and all these guys up here (Young, Alex Smith, and Jeff Garcia were on stage with Purdy), and I think that's when those thoughts start rolling in of, okay, there's a standard here, and I have to live up to that standard."

Purdy certainly lived up to that in his second NFL season, throwing for a single-season franchise record of 4,280 passing yards and leading the league with a 113.0 passer rating. The only misstep in an otherwise impressive sophomore campaign was falling just short of winning the Super Bowl, failing to earn the organization's sixth championship.

Purdy and the 49ers aim to finish the job in the upcoming season.
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