Kyle Shanahan

Shanahan reacts to Purdy's on-field incident at 49ers practice

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SANTA CLARA — One moment from the 49ers' second week of practice is burned in coach Kyle Shanahan’s mind. 

Thankfully, the play when defensive lineman Clelin Ferrell’s hand came down towards Brock Purdy’s throwing arm ended up as harmless near miss. But that still doesn’t mean Shanahan will forget.

“I had hold my breath so I didn’t lose my mind,” Shanahan said. “I could see he was alright but, it’s human nature. The only way you can finish a sack is if you run, run and reach. And those guys do it and that’s why we have to get on them all the time not to do it, because it’s human nature."

As Purdy dropped back, Ferrell got pressure rushing into the pocket as the quarterback’s arm was moving forward. The pass rusher’s hand slapped the ball to the ground but missed hitting Purdy’s surgically repaired throwing arm by a fraction. 

“I have to remind defensive guys of that every single play on whoever is at quarterback, for my whole career and that will continue,” Shanahan said. "But yes, it is a lot more sensitive when you see it happen to a guy who ended his season that way last year. That’s all we talk about.” 

Purdy has made his way back under center more rapidly than many projected after suffering an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament in the NFC Championship Game in January. Shanahan isn’t just worried about just one player.

The coach would like the team to find the balance between getting good work done on the field while also protecting each other from injury. Part of that includes players wearing “guardian caps” over their helmets during practice. The padded covers act as a shock absorber for impact.

During the 2021 preseason contest with the Raiders, Trey Lance’s finger slammed into an opposing player’s helmet. The quarterback’s resulting broken finger forced him to adjust his mechanics to compensate for the inability to straighten it completely.

“That’s what killed Trey his first two years, hitting his finger on a helmet and breaking it and that messed him up for about a year and a half,” Shanahan said. “That’s one of the biggest things that we emphasize every day in this room in team meeting -- how to get better and not hit the quarterback.”

Part of the risk of playing football is getting hurt, but hopefully the injury bug steers clear of team headquarters as much as humanly possible. Maybe the funniest portion of Shanahan’s comments are his detailing the timeline of how it became a serious issue for him.

“I used to get annoyed when coaches would make such a big deal about it when I was younger,” Shanahan said. “I was like, ‘Chill out, man. Just let them play football. It’s not the end of the world.’ And then eventually you coach long enough and you lose players in practice to some things like that and you realize how big of a deal it is.”

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