Shanahan knows Purdy's injury leaves slight opening for Lance

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PHOENIX — Kyle Shanahan has not given up on Trey Lance.

But the 49ers coach also acknowledged Tuesday at the NFL Annual Meeting that he anticipates Brock Purdy being the 49ers’ starting quarterback when he is ready to play.

The main reason Purdy has risen ahead of Lance is because of the high level at which he played during an eight-game stretch, which included two 49ers victories in the playoffs.

“We believe Trey can be that,” Shanahan said. “I think he would’ve done it last year if he stayed healthy. The good thing for him is with Brock being hurt, he has an opportunity to try to regain that.”

Purdy underwent surgery on March 10 to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. At the three-month mark, the 49ers should have a better idea of a timetable for Purdy’s return to game action.

Shanahan said there remains a lot of uncertainty. The team is optimistic Purdy will be ready for the regular season. But there remains the possibility that Purdy might not be cleared until Week 4.

In the meantime, Lance and veteran Sam Darnold will get significant practice time during the offseason program and training camp.

Lance, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, was anointed the starting quarterback last offseason while the 49ers tried to trade veteran Jimmy Garoppolo.

But Lance’s season came to an end in Week 2 when he sustained a fractured lower right fibula and ankle ligament damage. Lance is expected to be back on the field for the first practices of the offseason, beginning May 22.

Lance's injury led to Garoppolo moving back into the starting lineup.

Then, the 49ers' play at quarterback improved when Garoppolo sustained a season-ending broken foot and Purdy was pressed into action.

Shanahan said it will be difficult for Lance to regain his starting job based solely on practice sessions when Purdy set the bar so high with his play at the tail end of his rookie season.

“With Brock being hurt, it does open it up,” Shanahan said. “It does give him a chance. I don’t know how Brock is going to come back or exactly when he’s going to come back.”

RELATED: Lynch: Purdy 'leader in the clubhouse' for 49ers' starting QB job

The 49ers can be expected to add another young quarterback to participate in the offseason and training camp with the uncertainty surrounding Purdy’s return.

“It’s why we brought in Sam, because we can’t be set for sure on Brock because you never know how the injury will go,” Shanahan said. “We think it will go well. We’re optimistic about it, but right now that’s our hope.

“That opens up an opportunity for Trey and for Sam to come in and show us what they have.”

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