49ers optimistic Brock Purdy will be ready for season opener

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- According to San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, only God knows for sure when quarterback Brock Purdy will be fully cleared to return to football.

But that didn't stop Shanahan from offering his most optimistic Purdy update yet when he spoke to Bay Area media following Tuesday's organized team activities.

"We're hoping for Week 1 and we feel pretty optimistic about that," Shanahan said. "That's what we're hoping for. ... Usually you've got to come back before that to make that goal and that's kind of the goal we're hoping for and don't have any reason to think different."

Purdy had the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow repaired March 10 after suffering the injury in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 29. Initial estimates for a timeline were five to seven months but the Niners have maintained all along that they will have a better idea on a return date once Purdy begins a throwing program at the 12-week mark.

Purdy will hit 12 weeks June 2 and is progressing as hoped. Shanahan said Tuesday that Purdy is expected to begin the throwing plan next week.

For his part, Purdy still does not want to put any hard and fast deadline on a return but he echoed Shanahan's optimism.

"Arm is feeling good," Purdy said. "To say I'm going to be ready by this time or this time, we're not trying to label any kind of timeline like that. For sure, though, that's a goal to want to be ready for the season and if that's the case, great. But like I said, we're just staying one day at time and don't want to say anything that we regret down the road."

Most of Purdy's rehab to this point has been limited to flexion and range of motion exercises as well as plyometrics. His "throwing" has been limited to a simulated motion using a towel. Once he begins the throwing program, he will be able to start working his way toward throwing a full-size NFL football again from various distances and at different effort levels.

Purdy said once the Niners complete their offseason program in mid-June, he expects to continue his rehab and throwing program in Jacksonville, Florida, with his personal quarterback coaches.

Despite an offseason vote of confidence from general manager John Lynch in which Lynch called Purdy the "leader in the clubhouse" to be the team's starter in 2023, the quarterback isn't getting ahead of himself as he continues to recover.

"I just try to focus on where I'm at right now," Purdy said. "For me, it's getting my arm healthy. To say all these things and say you want to be this kind of guy or that kind of guy for the team, I think that's just in a sense foolish to think like that. ... I'm not trying to get caught up in rumors and what people were saying or anything like that, but the fact that he would say that, yeah, for sure I'm appreciative."

Purdy wasn't the only 49ers quarterback who spent the offseason trying to avoid rumors and speculation. Trey Lance, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, has been working his way back from a broken right ankle and attempting to get his throwing mechanics back to status quo after also dealing with the fallout of a broken right index finger he suffered early in his rookie year.

With Purdy's ascent to the starting job, Lance's name came up in trade conversations Lynch had with other teams in the offseason. Lynch said he did not initiate those discussions and has acknowledged it would have taken a substantial offer for the 49ers to trade Lance, especially given the team's lengthy history of injuries at the position.

Even after San Francisco signed veteran Sam Darnold to a one-year deal early in free agency, Lance said he never considered asking for a new opportunity elsewhere.

"I knew where I wanted to be," Lance said. "Even going back, like I said last year, I just want an opportunity to compete. For me, I love it here. I love the coaching staff, love the quarterback room, love the guys in the locker room. No doubt for me, this is absolutely where I want to be."

While Purdy continues on the road to recovery, the Niners opened OTAs this week with Lance getting the first snaps during 7-on-7 drills with Darnold coming in behind him. But as Shanahan was quick to point out, those drills are different from team drills and he intends for those reps to even out as the offseason program chugs along.

Until Purdy is cleared, the Niners' quarterback situation figures to remain cloudy but there's plenty of time for Lance and Darnold to make an impression in the coming days, weeks and months.

"I think competition's great for everyone," Darnold said. "Obviously, we've got some competition in the quarterback room. ... It's always great to be able to go out there and compete and we're going to do that."