Is former Bison QB Trey Lance destined for 49ers' bench or a trade?

San Francisco GM called Brock Purdy, if healthy, the 'leader in the clubhouse' to start and wouldn't rule out trading Lance while adding 'we like Trey on our team right now.'

NFL: San Francisco 49ers Training Camp
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance (5) walks with quarterback Nate Sudfeld (7) and quarterback Brock Purdy (14) during warm ups on July 27, 2022, at the SAP Performance Facility near Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
Stan Szeto/USA Today Sports

SAN FRANCISCO — A viral photo surfaced over the weekend of Brock Purdy, with the 49ers’ quarterback wearing his boyish smile and a super-sized brace on his surgically repaired elbow.

Nothing unusual there.

Then came Monday’s surprising proclamation that Purdy’s road to recovery could see him participating in training camp, which begins in four months.

“Our hope is he’s ready to go for training camp,” general manager John Lynch said at the NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix, according to The Athletic’s David Lombardi.

“We’ll see how everything goes. We’re going to do what’s right for Brock, because that’s right for our organization,” Lynch added. “You know, be aggressive with what we do but also be really smart. We’re insulated with other guys we have a lot of belief in, so if Brock’s not ready, we’ll hold down the fort until he is.”


Purdy is only 17 days removed from a career-saving procedure in which an internal brace repaired the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right, throwing elbow.

He’s not expected to resume throwing a football for three months. Full clearance is not expected until six months, which would extend his timeline into September, potentially aligning with the 49ers’ regular-season opener on Sept. 10 or 11.

Lynch, in an interview with this news organization last Wednesday at Stanford’s pro day, indicated that Purdy’s rehabilitation is just beginning in Arizona, where he’s being tended to be an arm-recovery specialist, along with occasional visits by the 49ers’ medical staff.

Coach Kyle Shanahan could expand on Purdy’s recovery and the 49ers’ expectations when he speaks with reporters Tuesday morning at the owners’ meetings.

Even if the “hope” is that Purdy can compete with Trey Lance and Sam Darnold by training camp, it would be surprising if the 49ers indeed rush Purdy, who burst onto the NFL season as a rookie by winning seven games upon replacing Jimmy Garoppolo before ultimately getting hurt early in the NFC Championship Game loss at Philadelphia.

Lynch told reporters Monday that Purdy is “the leader in the clubhouse” to serve as this coming season’s starter, based on last season’s efforts.

“Brock has earned the right, with the way he played, that he’s probably the leader in the clubhouse at that,” Lynch added Monday. “I’ll let Kyle make those kind of decisions. But I know when we talk, Brock’s probably earned that right to be that guy, if we were to line up, he’d probably take that first snap.”

Purdy’s surgery was postponed from Feb. 22 to March 10, because of persistent swelling in his elbow. That is a telling example that the 49ers will take a cautious approach to his recovery, rather than fast-track him into a camp competition.


If Purdy does not begin throwing, as expected, until early June, that would come amid the 49ers’ organized team activities, with their mandatory minicamp set for June 13-15.

Will he throw on a side field? Will he be at the team’s Santa Clara facility or at a rehabilitation center in his native Arizona? Will he watch practices on the field and partake in meetings, unlike Garoppolo’s outcast-like treatment at last year’s training camp while he recovered from shoulder surgery?

“He’s doing a really good job. It’s early on,” Lynch added. “There’s not a whole lot that you’re doing, it’s a lot of the range of motion and whatnot. He’s right here (in Arizona) and we may see him tonight.

“As I understand it, around 12 weeks, we’ll know a lot more. That’s when he can start throwing,” Lynch said. “That’s when you really start to know a little more about timeline. All things are going really well. Brock’s going to work, do everything they ask and more.”

Hope aside, the anticipated road to recovery for Purdy has him throwing in some light fashion in June, July and August, with a chance to get fully cleared by the regular season.

Until then, meanwhile, Lance could re-establish himself as the No. 1 option, as he entered last season before breaking his right ankle in the Sept. 18 home opener.

“We’re really excited where Trey is at with his progress from his injury. He’s been working really hard,” Lynch added. ” And we love the opportunity to be able to bring in Sam Darnold and his skill set. We think it’s a really good fit. We like that room a lot.”

Purdy’s absence from the offseason program will afford Lance and Darnold “a lot of valuable experience” to take those snaps.


Whie Lynch saying that draft status does not factor into the depth chart, could Lance be on the trade market once Purdy is healthy?

“We like Trey on our team right now,” Lynch said. “We always joke, Kyle and I, we’d trade each other if someone gave us a good enough deal. So we listen to anything. But we like Trey on our team. We’re excited about the way he’s progressing and the opportunity. He’s champing at the bit to get out there and get back under center and be healthy again.”

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