National Football League
Niners QB Brock Purdy shows off arm strength in return from elbow surgery
National Football League

Niners QB Brock Purdy shows off arm strength in return from elbow surgery

Published Jul. 27, 2023 6:36 p.m. ET

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Christmas in July? For San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy, that's what Thursday morning felt like, including some tossing and turning the night before in anticipation of taking his first reps at training camp. 

"I was excited," Purdy said. "To end the year like we did last year was heartbreaking. We had to go through surgery, rehab in the offseason, missing OTAs.

"So, just to be able to get out, say a play to my teammates and break a huddle — to me, I was so excited thinking about that. It's almost like last night was like Christmas. You're excited for the next day." 

A little over four-and-half months after having surgery to repair a ruptured UCL ligament in his right elbow, suffered in the opening quarter of the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Purdy was back winging the football like he did as a surprising rookie starter for San Francisco last season.


Purdy completed 8 of 17 passes during 7-on-7 and team drills, going against one of the best defenses in the league across the line of scrimmage. He threw a pick to safety Tashaun Gipson on his second throw of the day, trying to force a ball into a tight window to Brandon Aiyuk.

While those numbers are nothing to write home about, Purdy's most impressive throws were misses. He overthrew Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings on go routs that showed his arm strength has returned.

Purdy also made a big-boy throw, completing a laser on a deep in route to Aiyuk that drew applause from the fans on hand. Purdy dapped up backup quarterback Sam Darnold afterward. 

"There's some rust I still got to knock off," Purdy said. "I didn't get any reps in OTAs with 11-on-11 or 7-on-7. Just the pace of the game — seeing a defense, dropping back and going through reads. So today was good to get out there, going through reads and stuff and letting it rip." 

Trent Williams, Purdy's blindside protector, had been talking with his quarterback throughout the process and was not surprised by how he threw the football.

"Brock is rock solid mentally," Williams said. "He doesn't get frustrated very easily, so he took the whole process like a champ. If he was going though anything, I couldn't tell personally." 

San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters before the start of training camp that Purdy was cleared without restrictions. Shanahan also has former No. 3 overall picks in Trey Lance and Darnold working with the quarterback group in camp, along with veteran Brandon Allen. So finding reps for all four quarterbacks while getting Purdy ready for the start of the regular season will be a juggling act. 

The plan for Purdy is to ease him into practice and hold him to a pitch count throughout camp. He will practice for two days straight then take a day off to rest his repaired throwing elbow. He did not work with the rest of the quarterbacks on the first day of training camp on Wednesday.

Purdy said Thursday's practice was part of a meticulous plan put together by San Francisco's training and medical staff, his doctors and the QB's private training staff that includes throwing coach Will Hewlett and orthopedic specialist Tom Gormely of QB Collective in Jacksonville, Florida.

"Right after surgery, it was do the simple things," Purdy said. "Then once I got my range of motion back, it was, ‘All right, we've got a throwing program coming up, here's how we're going to ease into it. And go from there. … We never jumped ahead of schedule or tried to do anything out of the ordinary. We had really good advice from those professionals along the way and slowly got to where we are at.

"And we still have a plan to continue to carry out. It's not, ‘Oh, we made it. We threw in practice and it's over.' We still have some stuff to do." 

Will Brock Purdy replicate his rookie season success?

Purdy says he has no limitation to what he can do out on the field, and that he can make every throw during 11-on-11 work, including throwing from different arm angles. He said he has experienced arm soreness after intense training sessions like normal quarterbacks do after throwing, but nothing out of the ordinary. 

Now, the focus during training camp will be increasing the volume of throws as he works toward potentially starting Week 1 on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Purdy said Shanahan has not told him he's the starter to open the season and that the focus remains on getting better each day.

"Obviously, what we put on tape last year was great and all," Purdy said. "But there's still a lot of areas where I have to get better and grow. That's just where we're at. We're not trying to get to far ahead of ourselves." 

Already, however, everything about this camp is different from last year's. As the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Purdy said he got two reps each at the end of each period as the guy at the end of the depth chart last summer. On Thursday, he took the lion's share of the reps with the starters. 

Meanwhile, Lance, the No. 3 overall selection in the 2021 draft, got about the same number of reps as Allen, the fourth quarterback on the depth chart. Lance threw more on the side staying warm between reps than during team periods. 

What a difference a year makes.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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