Nick WagonerESPN staff writer5 minutes of reading
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is not fully back from right elbow surgery yet, but he is well on his way, according to general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan.
As the Niners reported to training camp Tuesday, Lynch and Shanahan revealed that Purdy, who had surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on March 10, has been cleared to participate in practice when the team takes the field Wednesday.
“Brock is cleared and ready to go,” Lynch said. “Having said that, we’re sticking and we’re sticking to a plan that’s been in place for some time.”
That plan means Purdy will follow a pitch count that includes two days of pitching and a day off. Purdy threw ahead of Shanahan, Lynch and the Niners’ medical team Tuesday with an increased workload, so he won’t practice Wednesday. According to Shanahan, he will participate on Thursday and Friday.
When Purdy returns, Shanahan said he will get the bulk of his reps with the starting offense, a decision that comes as no surprise since Shanahan and Lynch repeatedly said during the offseason that Purdy would be “the leader in the clubhouse” to start when healthy.
“He wants [be with the starters] when he’s out there,” Shanahan said. “The pitching scheme is a little different. We never want him to go three days in a row.”
While the Niners celebrated Purdy’s return on Tuesday, they are still working to get another of their most important players back in the building. Lynch and his staff have been in talks with defensive end Nick Bosa’s representatives in an attempt to work out a lucrative contract extension.
Until that deal is finalized, Bosa is unlikely to report to camp or participate in practice, Lynch said. Shanahan said he would “be surprised” if Bosa practiced before signing a new deal.
“I would expect him not to be here to start,” Lynch said. “We work, we have really good communication with [Bosa’s agent] Brian Ayrault. … We are working diligently to try to reach an agreement.”
The team’s hope is that Purdy’s warm-up period will last about two weeks before he is then able to fully practice for three consecutive days. That would put Purdy on pace to be completely cleared without a count by the time the Niners join the Raiders for joint practices in Las Vegas on Aug. 10-11.
“I haven’t looked that far past [right now],” Shanahan said. “We’re not going to change it until that happens, and as long as it continues to stay the course, eventually we’re going to go all the days.”
Meanwhile, the Niners will follow a plan with their other quarterbacks similar to what they did in the offseason program, with Trey Lance and Sam Darnold alternating reps with the starting offense on days Purdy doesn’t practice, then blending in behind him with veteran Brandon Allen on days Purdy is.
Shanahan said he will aim to get Lance and Darnold an even number of reps throughout camp while also working in Allen, which could make for a difficult juggling act.
“There’s multiple musical chairs with just one guy that’s not always there and takes some days off,” Shanahan said. “I was trying to make sure we still have a couple of weeks before Brock comes back. So the thought was always we’re just going to keep it going. The same with Trey and Sam, but I was also ready for this to happen. The fact that this happened is good, but Brandon came on and did a really good job in OTAs. … What makes it a little bit more difficult, how to fit in so he earned what we needed and he earned the fourth man and he earned to have with a man, and as reps and all.”
Bosa is the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year after posting 18.5 sacks in 2022. During the offseason, Bosa and the Niners expressed confidence that a deal would be reached either right before training camp or shortly after it begins.
But Bosa has a strong case to become the league’s highest-paid defenseman, which begs the question of how high those numbers can go.
“I think the challenges of talking about a really special player talking about one of the better players in the league, you could argue that it could simplify things, but I think at times it’s just finding the sweet spot,” Lynch said. “And we are in the right place and we are committed to working towards it.”
For now, there is no timeline for when Bosa is expected to sign, but the Niners have had similar big-money deals inked with other star players such as tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner and receiver Deebo Samuel around this time in recent years. And while there’s no official deadline to make a deal, the Niners won’t practice in full cushion until Sunday, giving them a little extra time before the real work begins.
“They’ve always done a great job of getting those types of things done with guys when their time is up for an extension, and I know they want him,” Warner said. “If there was one guy I wasn’t worried about being in shape for training camp, I think it would be Nick Bosa.”