Now healthy, 49ers QB Brock Purdy looks to elevate his game

ByNick Wagoner ESPN logo
Saturday, June 22, 2024

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- As the San Francisco 49ers progressed through their offseason program, it was hard not to see -- or hear -- quarterback Brock Purdy.

During organized team activities and minicamp practices, Purdy was clearly in command. In meeting rooms and the locker room, teammates say Purdy was more vocal. It was a far cry from the 2023 offseason when Purdy was recovering from a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and unable to take any of the work he was doing in the classroom out onto the field.

This year has been different. Fully healthy, coming off a breakthrough season and able to go through an entire offseason as the entrenched starter, Purdy has been able to focus on elevating his game -- both mentally and physically -- to another level.

"He is definitely ahead of where he was last year this time," coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It's been awesome for him to lead us through the whole offseason, just drillwise and everything. It's been great to have [him] for a first full offseason."

For both the Niners and Purdy, having a full offseason together comes at an ideal time. San Francisco is coming off a narrow overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, has advanced to at least the NFC Championship Game in four of the past five seasons and is increasingly desperate to get over the hump and win another Lombardi Trophy.

Purdy has moved past Mr. Irrelevant status, stayed healthy and put together a strong and lengthy enough résumé to position himself for a lucrative contract extension next offseason.

As the unquestioned QB1, Purdy's offseason has been all about taking the next step as a team leader, either by making his voice louder among teammates or putting in the work in the weight room to get bigger, faster and stronger.

"For me it was like, this is going to be a different kind of offseason," Purdy said. "It's nice that I don't have to be on this schedule and regime of rehab, rehab, rehab, get healthy and sort of stress about am I going to make it back for the season or not. We sort of just have an offseason to breathe and reflect on really the last two years because it's been go, go, go. For me it's been really good, just mentally and sort of having that hunger to come back and be ready to roll."

The dates and moments still sit fresh in Purdy's mind. The memory of tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during the 2023 NFC Championship Game in Philadelphia, followed by surgery in March. While he was around the team that offseason and fully expected to step back into the starting role when healthy, there was at least some uncertainty until he was fully cleared to return.

Purdy spent those OTAs and the offseason program studying cutups with Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Brian Griese. When it came time to translate what he learned from those sessions to the field, the best Purdy could do was watch from the sideline and take the reps mentally. Shanahan said Purdy was frustrated by those circumstances but quickly noticed an extra bounce in Purdy's step when he was able to jump in from the first day of the first phase of this year's program.

During his postseason study of his performance in 2023, Purdy found plenty of things he wanted to work on. While he threw for a franchise-record 4,280 yards and became the first Niners quarterback since Jeff Garcia in 2001 to throw for 30-plus touchdowns on the way to his first Pro Bowl nod, Purdy saw occasional lapses in going through his progressions, footwork and game management. He also wanted to continue to grow into the leadership role that inherently comes with the position.

"That's what we talk about," Griese said. "Situational awareness on top of all the progressions and then growing as a leader off the field and in the locker room and what that entails and what that looks like. And as you gain more experience and status on the team and the league within the organization, what opportunities that presents for you to take a little bit bigger voice and setting accountability and expectations."

On the physical side, Purdy drew rave reviews from teammates and coaches and got some viral social media reactions to photos of him after adding some muscle to his 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame. Purdy wanted to get bigger so he could better deal with the wear and tear of the season and felt like a stronger lower half would also help bolster his arm strength.

Purdy's workout routine, which he plans to continue in Florida leading into training camp, also focused on adding flexibility and mobility.

"Come the season, that's what matters is being in the best shape possible for what is a marathon," Purdy said. "To be able to run, make plays, throw the ball, stay in shape. I'm preparing for that right now."

On the mental side, Purdy has taken all that comes with his emergence in stride. His celebrity has grown, acknowledging that he gets recognized more often when he goes out in the Bay Area and making appearances here and there, such as throwing out the first pitch at a San Francisco Giants game.

As many of the Niners' top stars either rehabbed an injury or didn't participate in the offseason program, Purdy didn't shy away from having a louder voice on the practice field or in meetings. That big 2023 season has helped Purdy's confidence grow and, with that, his teammates have continued to gravitate toward him, though they insist he hasn't forfeited his humble approach in the name of vocal leadership.

"I think he's definitely getting a little more vocal within the building," end Nick Bosa said. "I don't think he's somebody that's going to change even when he gets paid next year."

While Purdy's offseason has come with plenty to celebrate, including a wedding and honeymoon with his wife, Jenna, next year's could be even bigger. Purdy is entering the third year of his rookie contract and slated to make a base salary of just $985,000 with a cap number just north of $1 million.

That means Purdy will remain one of the NFL's best bargains for one more year. As Bosa points out, that is all but certain to change next year when Purdy is eligible to negotiate a contract extension for the first time.

When that happens, Purdy's salary could multiply 50-plus times over, an almost unthinkable rise for a player who nearly went undrafted in 2022. But before any of that can happen, Purdy knows he must take the lessons learned from last season and the work of his first full offseason and turn it into another big year on the field.

"I'm trying to win this year and do everything I can for this organization," Purdy said. "Everything else happens how it happens... Getting too caught up in all that kind of stuff is, for me, that's nonsense. I'm taking it one day at a time and getting better."

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