49ers QB Brock Purdy taking elbow recovery 'one day at a time'

ByNick Wagoner and Stephania Bell ESPN logo
Monday, April 17, 2023

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Despite a strong vote of confidence fromSan Francisco 49ersgeneral manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan at last month's NFL owners meetings, quarterbackBrock Purdy's focus hasn't shifted from where it was after the season.

Speaking to ESPN on Friday, Purdy made clear that despite Lynch and Shanahan indicating he has the inside track on the Niners' starting job in 2023, he is still thinking only about getting his injured right elbow back to full strength.

"I'm just taking it one day at a time, trying to get healthy and trying to be the best version I can be every single day and go from there," Purdy said. "Overall, I'm taking it one day at a time and everything will fall into place."

Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow early in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles in January, which the 49ers lost 31-7. After an extended wait for swelling in the elbow to go down, Purdy had what is known as a UCL repair with InternalBrace on March 10.

While initial indications were that Purdy's recovery would take approximately six months, the Niners and Purdy have declined to put a specific timeline on when he will be cleared to return. Lynch said in March the team and Purdy will know more about a possible return date 12 weeks after the surgery.

"I think like a lot of those things, timelines are just guidelines," Lynch said. "Every person is different. There probably is some amount of time in talking to the docs that you want to make sure you get to that point before he's out there, but our hope is he's ready to go in training camp."

The 12-week mark would be June 2, which is also the date of San Francisco's sixth organized team activity. At that time, the Niners and Purdy hope he can resume throwing and begin rebuilding his arm strength.

For now, Purdy is rehabbing in Gilbert, Arizona, with physical therapist Keith Kocher. Kocher has worked with throwing athletes, including many major league pitchers, for the past 25 years. The surgery was performed by Dr. Keith Meister, who has done elbow surgeries on MLB pitchers, including Justin Verlander in 2020.

Purdy said Friday he is still in the early stages of his rehab, but he described it as "going really well." He was able to avoid Tommy John reconstruction surgery, which would have required more time on the sidelines.

"As a football player, it's not as long as a recovery as a baseball player, just because baseball players are throwing harder than a quarterback," he said. "To find a way to have surgery and get the ligament healed up -- but also cut down the recovery time -- I think is huge."

Purdy said he's staying in shape this offseason and is diving into the 49ers' playbook ahead of training camp, which begins in July.

"My body is healthy, it's just the arm," he said. "I'm able to stay in shape and condition and do all those kind of things with my body. Just don't use the arm."

After replacing an injured Jimmy Garoppolo (who early in the season replaced the injured Trey Lance) in Week 14, Purdy went 7-1 as the starter. The final pick of the 2022 NFL draft, Purdy ranked third in the NFL in QBR (68.8), fifth in completion percentage (68.5) and first in yards per attempt (8.9) after becoming the starter.

Lance and Sam Darnold, whom the Niners signed in free agency, are expected to take San Francisco's quarterback reps while Purdy is recovering from elbow surgery.

Lynch said in March the organization views Purdy as being in the driver's seat to start when he is healthy.

"I think Brock has earned the right with the way he played that he's probably the leader in the clubhouse at that," Lynch said. "I'll let Kyle make those kinds of decisions, but I know when we talk, Brock has probably earned that right to be the guy. If we were to line up, he'd probably take that first snap."