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Shanahan says Lance still has an opportunity to win the starting job while Purdy is sidelined

Shanahan wants to “see how much of a gap” Lance can make up while Purdy is sidelined with his injury.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was effusive with his praise for quarterback Trey Lance at Wednesday night’s Dwight Clark legacy event. He was also honest in saying how uncontrollable circumstances led to Brock Purdy being publicly anointed as the Niners QB1. Shanahan even addressed Sam Darnold.

The overarching theme was that Shanahan is comfortable and confident in all three signal-callers, while leaving the door open for all three to compete for the starting job.

According to Shanahan, Purdy is progressing well during his rehab from his successful UCL repair surgery. Shanahan believes Purdy will be on track and ready for training camp. But Brock isn’t throwing a football yet. Instead, he’s using a towel to throw as a substitute for a football.

It’s less about when Purdy will begin to throw and more about the functional activities he can perform, like how far and if he’s returning to his traditional routine. Dr. Jeff Dugas, the orthopedic surgeon for Nick Mullens’ UCL repair surgery, gave a guesstimate of around August when Purdy could begin those specific activities.

Despite Shanahan insisting that Purdy will be good to go by training camp, he also said Lance has an opportunity to win the starting job. It’s up to Trey to “see how much of a gap” he can close while Purdy recovers.

And to be clear, Kyle made it sound as though Purdy would be throwing come training camp. That doesn’t mean he’ll be 100 percent cleared for full football activities.

Lance’s ankle injury wasn’t the only significant injury he’s had during his Niners tenure. During Week 3 of the preseason against the Rams, Lance’s right index finger collided with Max Richardson’s helmet after a throw. That chipped a bone in his finger that would linger throughout the rest of the season.

Here’s Lance talking about his finger injury back in March 2022:

“I kind of dealt with my finger throughout the season so for me it was kind of getting that back, getting healthy, and feeling back to myself. I feel like towards the end of the season I wasn’t the best version of myself overall.

I think the finger for me was the biggest thing, just as far as throwing the ball. Had to learn how to throw the ball differently without kind of using my pointer finger I guess just because of where it was at throughout the year.”

Shanahan mentioned how it took multiple months for Lance to rediscover his throwing form after that injury.

Lance didn’t have any setbacks from his most recent ankle injury that sidelined him for the 2022 season. Shanahan added that Lance has looked the best that he’s ever looked since being on the 49ers.

It’ll be fascinating to see how long of a leash each quarterback gets while Purdy is out. My two cents is that Shanahan isn’t married to the idea of any quarterback as the starter. The physical skillset Lance possesses gives the 49ers the greatest margin for error, thus, the highest ceiling. But Kyle needs Trey to prove that he’s consistent.

San Francisco can win with and because of Purdy. Both have been proven. That’s the reason Purdy remains first on the depth chart. The unknown in Lance is enticing, but it’s tough to turn your back on a quarterback, when healthy, who routinely put up at least 30 points per game.

Darnold made the rounds last week after NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco tweeted that Darnold is one of the “most talented throwers” the franchise has ever seen. Shanahan called Darnold a “sensational” thrower before emphasizing that there’s far more to playing the position than that.

There wasn’t the same assertion for Darnold as the potential starter as there was for Lance, but Shanahan is a believer in Darnold’s talent and is happy with his quarterback room heading into the summer.