49ers training camp: Brock Purdy returns to practice for 1st time since elbow surgery

SANTA CLARA — When Brock Purdy tore the ligament in his throwing elbow less than six months ago in an NFC title game loss, there was uncertainty about whether he’d back in time for the start of the 2023 season.

So the fact he stepped into the huddle Thursday with the first-team offense on the second day of training camp practice for the San Francisco 49ers was a major milestone and cause for much excitement.

“Obviously to end the year like we did last year, it was heartbreaking and everything,” Purdy said. “So just to go through surgery, rehab, the offseason, everything and missing OTAs, just to be able to get out and say a play to my teammates and break a huddle, I was so excited just thinking about that. It was almost like last night, it was like Christmas, you’re excited for the next day.”

The months of grueling rehab paid off for Purdy as his arm strength looked similar to what it was before the injury. But he knows it will still take time to get back into rhythm after not taking part in the offseason program.

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers works out during training camp at SAP Performance Facility on July 27, 2023 in Santa Clara.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

He threw an interception on his second pass of team drills and then overthrew Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings on a couple of deep passes.

“There’s just some rust I still got to knock off,” he said. “I obviously didn’t get any reps and OTAs or anything like that with 11-on-11, seven-on-seven, whatever. Just the pace of the game, seeing a defense, dropping back, going through reads. So today it was good just to get out there, go through some reads and stuff, let it rip.”

After getting only a couple of reps each practice period last year as a third-stringer, Purdy began this camp with the first-team offense. He won’t practice more than two straight days to begin camp as he builds up arm strength but should be on a normal practice plan in a couple of weeks, according to coach Kyle Shanahan.

Purdy tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game against Philadelphia on Jan. 29.

He had surgery on March 10 and began a throwing program in late May. He then spent time in early July working with his own coaches in Florida before getting cleared by doctors and telling Shanahan he was ready for practice.

“Honestly, they gave me a plan, we all sat down, had a plan, and we just stuck to it,” Purdy said. “It was just get better every single day. Once we start throwing, here’s the set of throws we’ve got, here’s the amount of volume, here’s the intensity, and then just work your way up, see how you feel after every throwing session, and then just go from there.”

Purdy went from the last pick of the draft to the starter in the conference title game in an impressive rookie season. He won his first seven starts before the loss to Philadelphia in the conference title game.

Purdy threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season and his 108 passer rating in the regular season and playoffs was the highest ever for a rookie with at least 200 passes.

Now the Niners are excited to see Purdy progress even more.

“He seems like Brock,” All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams said. “Brock is rock-solid mental. He doesn’t get busted very easily. He took the whole process like a champ.”

NOTES: With Purdy getting the first-team snaps, Trey Lance and Sam Darnold alternated with the second team. Brandon Allen worked with the third team. … P Mitch Wishnowsky passed his physical and was activated from the non-football injury list after injuring his back lifting weights. … The 49ers signed LB Kyahva Tezino to a one-year deal.

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