49ers enter offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major quarterback questions after an injury-filled season at the most important position ended without either of them being physically able to throw the ball down the field.

Trey Lance, who started the season as a starter, is set to be fully cleared after two surgeries on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to starter who helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before being injured, is looking to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter between those two before he broke his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl as to whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that went to the NFC title game or further in. three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win their first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question in the post will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first practice of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game against Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion, but was unable to kick the ball more than a few yards due to the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and everything I think helps allow me to get back into the game and get the ball back – even that was quite painful. But overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.

An MRI revealed the tear, and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to determine whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is far more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them for up to a year. But Purdy hopes to avoid that; a simpler fix would keep him out of action for six months but allow him to return to training around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws versus a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who’ve been through this stuff. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I try to find the one that suits me best.

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last draft pick to starting in the conference title game. He had won all seven of his starts before Sunday’s loss and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions in the regular season.

This performance could make him the favorite to start next season as a starter if he is healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen in the future is out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get healthy and ready to compete in the fall.”

Lance was supposed to play that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he only started two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got injured and then suffered a season-ending injury at the start of Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation at the end of December, but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after starting just five games combined in the past three years in college and the NFL, one wonders if Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to come out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation as it’s been for me for the past two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what the people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So, I don’t let that have any effect on me.

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wanted to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco, but would be patient and leave that to his agent.


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