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Could Trey Lance return to the field this season?

John Lynch on KNBR: “I don’t see that as a possibility”

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Hope sprang eternal for the 49ers on Monday. Not just because of a dominant win over the Cardinals, but also because Trey Lance was seen walking around without a boot on his ankle, just two months after a devastating injury. When John Lynch was on KNBR yesterday, he was asked whether Trey could return this season.

“It is true, he is out of his walking boot, and sometimes you’ll see guys with that specific injury — it’s just a tough one [with] the mobility — or lack thereof — but Trey is moving really well.

I don’t see that as a possibility. He did a number on his ankle. He’ll be fine long term, but I think that’s a big ask to get back this year. We’re just really encouraged by the way it’s responding and by the way Trey has been working to try to make it as good as possible. Trey’s doing a great job going to every meeting, supporting his teammates. He’s well liked.”

The idea of Lance returning to the field originally began in September after foot and ankle surgeon Dr. Kenneth Jung told the San Francisco Chronicle that Trey could be fully healed within 10 to 12 weeks. At the time Kyle Shanahan specifically stated that Lance would be out until the 2023 season.

Just for my own edification, I did the math, and even if you go with the conservative end of Jung’s estimate, Lance would be fully healed by December 4th. That’s the week the 49ers play Mike McDaniel’s Miami Dolphins. If you throw in another month of rehab/recovery, that would put Lance back before the team’s final regular season game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 18.

Based on Shanahan and Lynch’s statements none of this is likely to happen, of course, but a return would have been an incredible story. Picture it: The Niners have a playoff spot locked up and Kyle decides to rest his starters for the final week of the season. Instead of a meaningless game, we get to see Trey Lance make his triumphant return against the same team he saw in his starting debut in 2021.

Given all the twists and turns this season has taken, maybe we shouldn’t rule anything out. Even if Lance could return this year, there’s zero benefit to Shanahan or Lynch saying so at this point considering how well things are going for the team. But crazier things have happened. I’m old enough to remember when Jerry Rice returned from a torn ACL after just 14 weeks back in 1997.

Like I said, hope springs eternal.

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