Brock Purdy

Why signs point to Purdy opening season as 49ers' starter

If Brock Purdy is cleared before the start of the regular season, there is little question he would be the 49ers' starting quarterback against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 10.

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Brock Purdy has gone through his first week of throwing a regulation 15-ounce NFL football.

And that is the biggest step to date in the 49ers quarterback's recovery from elbow surgery.

Purdy, whom 49ers general manager John Lynch often has described as “the leader in the clubhouse,” in essence, planted his tee shot in the middle of the fairway on the most difficult remaining hole.

Since the middle of March, there might have been equal odds of Purdy, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold taking the first snap of the 49ers’ season opener on Sept. 10 at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Now, based on the optimistic reports in recent weeks from Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, Purdy is the clear favorite to open the season as the 49ers’ starting quarterback.

“We think Brock probably is the leader in the clubhouse, as we said, but it will be open for competition, and it’s those guys’ opportunity to go in [and] earn that job,” Lynch said last week on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Purdy underwent surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on March 10. After three months of physical therapy, he advanced to the point where he began tossing a regulation NFL football last week.

Realistically, if Purdy is ready to play football when the season rolls around, it will be his job.

If his road to a full recovery stays true to the 12-week timeframe, he would receive full medical clearance to play football around Aug. 21 -- or 20 days before the start of the 2023 NFL season.

There virtually will be no way one of the other quarterbacks will be able to take the job away from Purdy based solely on practices. Why? Because Purdy already has shown in games what he brings to the team.

Lance has a stronger arm and provides more of a threat than Purdy. Darnold stands out on the practice field for his unique throwing ability.

But what Purdy proved to everyone involved with the 49ers is that he has the physical skills to succeed in the NFL, while also possessing many intangible factors that do not necessary show up during practice sessions.

He proved himself when he took over for Jimmy Garoppolo in Week 13 and finished out the 2022 regular season with six consecutive wins. The 49ers' offense was humming with Purdy behind center.

Then, in the playoffs he showed he could win pressure-packed games, too.

After becoming the team’s top quarterback, Purdy completed 67.4 percent of his pass attempts for 1,877 yards with 16 touchdowns, three interceptions and a passer rating of 111.4 in eight starts, including the playoffs.

Based on what they have seen during offseason workouts, the 49ers have every reason to like Lance and Darnold on their roster. But everyone is only guessing when it comes to how each of those players would perform if afforded extended playing time.

RELATED: Purdy describes 'night-and-day difference' from rookie season

“We know what we have [in Purdy],” Shanahan said last month. “I truly believe in my heart what Trey can be. It still takes time, and you've got to go do it. In the meantime, we have a guy sitting here who already has done it. That’s a very good thing for the Niners.”

With Purdy, the facts are the facts.

And that is why if Purdy is ready to go -- and the 49ers seem to be more optimistic than ever -- he will be the team’s starting quarterback when the curtain raises on the 2023 season.

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