San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy suffered a complete tear of his UCL in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, NFL Network reported Monday.
What comes next will determine whether the rookie phenom will even have a chance at an encore in 2023.
Purdy will almost certainly undergo surgery to repair the elbow ligament. The nature of that procedure will have a significant impact on the Niners’ plans for 2023, and it could potentially upend NFL free agency, which begins six weeks from Wednesday.
Brock Purdy Injury Update
Torn UCLs can be a year-plus injury. The recovery time from the surgery often performed — Tommy John — is extensive. But NFL Network reports that the Niners are hopeful that Purdy can get by with just a ligament repair and not a complete reconstruction.
If that’s the case, the rehab time would shrink by half, and Purdy would have a chance to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.
Purdy’s injury occurred in the first half of Sunday’s game when Eagles pass rusher Haason Reddick hit his right elbow as Purdy was attempting to pass.
Doctors immediately checked him out, and it was clear that something was significantly wrong. Purdy was unable to throw the football. He would have been done for the day had his backup, Josh Johnson, not suffered a concussion later in the game.
Purdy and Johnson were the only available quarterbacks for San Francisco, so Purdy had to return to the game, even though he could do little more than handoff.
San Francisco 49ers’ Offseason Outlook
The injury throws a major wrench into the 49ers’ offseason.
Purdy was set to be the Niners’ QB1 in 2023. But now, he will at the very least miss out on the offseason between NFL Year 1 and 2 — which is when most players make their biggest developmental leap.
That means Trey Lance — assuming he makes a full recovery from the broken ankle he suffered more than four months ago — is in line to get all the starters’ reps in spring ball, giving him a leg up in what will now presumably become an open quarterback competition.
Lance certainly needs the work. He’s shown little in his eight regular-season appearances that suggests he’s close to fulfilling the promise that made him the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
MORE: San Francisco 49ers Offseason Preview 2023 (Free Agents, Cut Candidates, and Team Needs)
Lance was taken at the beginning of the 2021 draft. Purdy was the last pick of the 2022 draft. But the latter has been far more poised, accurate, and productive as a pro.
All of this logically leads to the following conclusion: The Niners, who have been unable to get over the hump despite appearing in three of the past four NFC Championship Games, are in win-now mode at every position, except for quarterback.
The defense is next level, and their offense is loaded with skill-position players. It would be totally surprising and a bit reckless to roll simply with Purdy and Lance in 2023 — even if Purdy does indeed avoid Tommy John.
So, it’s a safe bet that they add a veteran this spring. The mystery is whether the vet will be a Josh Johnson/clear backup type, or an established starter who could lead the offense in an impactful way.
Put another way: Perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t done in the Bay Area quite yet.