SANTA CLARA — Clelin Ferrell knows not to touch the quarterback in team drills, but the 49ers' defensive end is wired to always seek out his target.
“Sometimes it can be a gift and a curse,” Ferrell said on Monday “I would say it’s something of the fact that you got to bring it every day. Because when you’re a guy that takes pride in his effort, when you’re a high-effort guy you got to be that all the time. I don’t really have a gauge.”
The former first-round pick (No. 4 overall) got a little too close for coach Kyle Shanahan's comfort in practice last week while swatting the ball out of quarterback Brock Purdy’s throwing hand. Nearly everyone held their breath for a few moments.
Ferrell explained how much of a challenge it is to refrain from going full speed at a quarterback while understanding the need to avoid contact. Since that play, Ferrell has pulled up short when he has won his rush and gotten into the pocket.
"If I’m not up here with it, then I’m going to be down here and I’m just going to play bad,” Ferrell said. “It’s a controlled violence and you always have to be on top of it. It gets better. I’d rather say whoa than sic em, for sure.”
Purdy shared that after the close call, he spoke with the edge rusher and understood his teammate's competitive nature of the play. The quarterback also revealed that he didn’t think about his surgically repaired elbow at all, only going through his reads and making the play.
“I just love his poise,” Ferrell said of Purdy. “Even if I don’t get to him, it’s just the little things. If I don’t win on a rush I’m trying to touch him every play, even jab him in the stomach or touch him on his back. It puts a reoccurring thing [in his head], 'What’s that touching me? What’s that bothering me?’ To let him know that I’m right there near him.”
San Francisco 49ers
Ferrell has been impressed with Purdy’s mindset ever since the quarterback returned to practice and understands how much of a benefit that can be to the offense and the team.
“Just to see his mental toughness is really, really good, especially for a young player,” Ferrell said. “I’ve played against Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert and I would say one thing about those guys — they never run from confrontation and he’s someone who enjoys the competition aspect of it. That’s really great to see.”