Brock Purdy spent his offseason working his way back from a significant injury to his elbow that was sustained during January's NFC title game loss to the 49ers. And he has made strides. San Francisco fans received good news this week when coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Purdy may be healthy enough to play preseason football. Purdy hasn't played in a game since tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during San Francisco's loss to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game.
"We plan on Sam going the first half [against the Broncos Saturday] still," Shanahan said Thursday, via KNBR. "We just finished practice here, so I'm going to talk to the trainers with the rest of our team and everything. I might get Brock in there for a little bit. I have not finalized that yet, but thinking about playing the ones, for possibly a series, a little in the first quarter."
Purdy, a rookie last season who went 7-1 as the 49ers' quarterback, underwent a procedure to remedy the injury on March 10. He then began a gradual training program and was cleared by the team to return to practice on July 25. Purdy has taken reps exclusively with the 49ers' first-team offense during the practice that he has participated in.
However if Purdy isn't cleared to suit for the 49ers' preseason game against Denver on Saturday, Darnold will soak up the first half action with Trey Lance going in the second half. Lance started San Francisco's preseason opener at the Las Vegas Raiders last week. If Purdy does play, it will be limited action.
"But whatever that is, if we don't (play Purdy), Sam will have the whole first half," Shanahan said. "And if those guys do open the game with Brock and some of the ones, it probably won't be much longer than a series or two."
Barring a setback, the goal is for Purdy to play in the 49ers' season-opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10. The Steelers' defense, a group that finished 10th in the NFL in points allowed last season, features several Pro Bowlers in defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, outside linebacker T.J. Watt and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Pittsburgh's defense also features outside linebacker Alex Highsmith, who received a hefty contract extension this offseason after recording 14.5 sacks in 2022.
The Steelers' defense and the 49ers' offense should be one of Week 1's more interesting matchups. Along with Purdy, the 49ers' offense features perennial Pro Bowlers in running back Christian McCaffrey, receiver Deebo Samuel, tight end George Kittle and offensive tackle Trent Williams.
Speaking of Kittle, Shanahan said that he will not return to practice this week as he continues to work his way back from an adductor strain. Shanahan said that the team is hoping to get Kittle back in the fold next week.